We took a trip to the New Fairfield Senior Center to sit down with member Lou Pante and physical therapist Matthew Ottulich. The two have been working in collaboration on a new exercise class for the Center and they were very excited to tell us all about it.
Tell us a bit about yourselves
Lou: I have been a member of the New Fairfield Senior Center for over 14 years and I am very active in our community. I spent many years in the corporate world as the Head of Business Research at the American Can Company, which had its headquarters in Greenwich, CT. I have degrees in mathematics as well as in statistical analysis.
I instruct a Weight Training and Sittercise class at the Center as well as volunteer at a few local nursing homes. For me, it has always been important that I play an active role in my community and that I share my knowledge with others. In addition to my involvement in fitness, after I retired, I became interested in investment and I took several classes to learn more about the subject. Currently, I run and teach the Investment Club at the New Fairfield Senior Center. I really like sharing my knowledge of investment with my fellow members and teaching them about portfolio investment.
Matt: I am a doctor of physical therapy and founder of QE Physical Therapy, LLC (QE PT). QE PT is a home health based and provides physical therapy, therapeutic massage, and personal training services. I was raised in New Fairfield, studied at, and received a bachelors in health science studies as well as a doctorate in physical therapy from Quinnipiac University.
From there, in 2011, I started out as a traveling Physical Therapist (PT). I have practiced PT around the country including places like Connecticut, Washington DC, Houston TX, and San Diego CA. I am currently the Danbury Branch Supervisor and treating PT for New England Homecare. In my free time, I work on building my private practice.
How much of a role has fitness and staying active played in your life?
Lou: Since I was a teenager (and now I am 88 years young!), I have always tried to lead a fit and active lifestyle. I was on the track and field team in high school and I received a scholarship to continue running in college. However, my time at the track did not end once I graduated. The company that I worked for in Greenwich was a part of a corporate track league. As a way to foster teamwork and keep employees healthy, our company team would compete against other businesses, such as IBM and Pepsi, in friendly competitions and races.
After I retired, I made a commitment to remain active. Growing old does not mean you become inactive or non-productive. As we age, we must continue to stay active physically and mentally.
Matt: Age is really just a number. When I lived in San Diego, I used to surf alongside 80 year olds. It was really quite inspiring to see these older adults defying the stigmas of aging and continue to do an activity that they love. Older adults still have a lot of physical ability and it is important that they do not let it deteriorate. Not only is regular exercise for the body vital as we age, but also exercise for the mind and spirit is essential too.
How did you two meet?
Matt: Through a community contact, I met Kathy Hull, the Director of the New Fairfield Senior Center. She asked me to come to the Center and review all of their exercise programs. About two months ago, I came into contact with Lou and started to review his Sittercise program. I shadowed him as he taught the class.
Can you tell us more about the Sittercise program?
Lou: I currently teach the Sittercise program at the Center every Wednesday and Thursday. The class runs for 45 minutes and it focuses on muscle strengthening. We use a variety of weights, exercise bands, and poles to target specific muscle groups. As the name suggests, this class is done while sitting, so it really caters to people with all levels of physical abilities. Our routine is also designed to help participants maintain agility, develop muscle tone, and promote their own physical well-being.
What did you find in your review of the Sittercise exercise program?
Matt: Lou was doing a great job teaching Sittercise at the Center. A class like this is important to have as regular strength and weight training can do much to improve one’s overall health. It can help prevent muscle loss, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
I did not think we needed to make drastic changes to the Sittercise class. In fact, what Lou was doing in his classes was actually so much more than what you would get in a normal Sittercise program. I suggested that we tweak the program slightly and change its name. Lou was very open to making any improvements, so we worked together to make a new class called “Bodies in Motion.”
Can you give us more information on the Bodies in Motion class?
Matt: The name derives from the famous Isaac Newton quote that “a body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion.” I use this saying a lot when I am working with clients and I feel that there is a lot of truth in these words. As for the class itself, I wanted to make sure it was accessible to all levels of physical abilities. It will focus on the upper, core, and lower body with various exercises and movements.
But, it will be a very flexible class and people can do the exercises based on their comfort levels. People can stand or they can sit. I really want to make sure that we create a nurturing environment in the class, so that people will feel comfortable as well as confident with the exercises that they are doing. Also, we are going to incorporate music into the class. I feel that it is important to work the whole body, mind, and spirit.
Lou: We are also keeping the Sittercise class. There will be two different classes that people can chose from. The Bodies in Motion class will be a program for those who want a more robust workout with challenging and advanced exercises. The Sittercise class will be a program for those who are looking for a total, but less-strenuous workout.
“A body in motion will remain in motion!”
When does this new class start?
Matt: Starting on January 8th, the Bodies in Motion class will begin at the Center. It will be offered on Monday and Thursday mornings. We are already expect 30 people to participate. Also, Weight Training will be on Wednesday mornings while the Sittercise class will be held on Wednesday afternoons.
Lou: Right now the Sittercise class is already at 30 people and we have interest from others to attend the Bodies in Motion class. I am sure that Bodies in Motion will be a hit here and a great addition to the class offerings at the Center.
Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
Lou: I really dislike the stigma that older adults are non-productive or not valuable. Many people think that as we age, we lose our worth and purpose. I live my life trying to counter this myth. I believe that older adults have a lot of knowledge and wisdom to share with our society. We must stay active in our communities and use our god given talents to not only better those around us, but also ourselves. We can grow happy and healthy as we grow older.
Matt: As a 30 year who is at the beginning of his career, I am truly inspired by Lou and the members of the New Fairfield Senior Center. They have accomplished so much in their lifetimes and they are truly committed to remaining active and fit. As we age, it is vital that we focus on improving our whole selves. Being physically fit is important, but it is also imperative that we take time to nurture as well as care for our minds and spirits.
For more information on the Sittercise class and Bodies in Motion, please see the New Fairfield Senior Center’s class schedule. If you want to find similar exercise classes in your area, check out our local Senior Center pages.
Editor’s Note: When we interviewed Lou and Matt, we were joined by Sarah Opdahl, a reporter from The Town Tribune, who also published an article about Lou and Matt! Read article