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The reason Eileen Malloy Desormeaux retired back in 2015, at just 61 years old? “I was tired,” she says. As an AP and Honors Chemistry teacher for Pittsford-Sutherland High School, she had been teaching for 30 years and often worked six days a week.
A few months after she retired, Eileen spotted an ad for Episcopal SeniorLife Communities’ Westside Neighborhood Program in the Gates-Chili Post that highlighted a variety of exercise classes. She decided to join up with two goals in mind. “I wanted to get fit after not exercising for so many years, and I didn’t know other retirees, so I wanted to make some new friends.”
A little more than two years after joining the program, she’s attending six exercise classes a week, including Fit & Flexible, balance, Zumba® Gold and Yoga. She’s also lost about 30 pounds, even though weight loss wasn’t part of her original goal.
Getting into exercise again wasn’t easy, she says. Eileen remembers her very first class, a half-hour of Zumba® Gold, where she really struggled. An 88-year-old member of the class gave her a chair and told her, “You need to sit down.”
Eileen credits instructor Katie Bauer for helping her achieve her new level of fitness. “Katie always says, ‘Just keep going,’ and as it turned out, the Zumba class Katie teaches is my favorite,” says Eileen. “It’s very energetic, I love the music, and it’s still more of a challenge.”
Katie has also become a good friend. “She inspires me,” says Eileen. “She’s helped me change my definition of myself and what I can do at my age. Everything feels better. No knees hurting. I can run up stairs, and when I garden, I have no issues the next day!”
Eileen’s classmates are friends, too. They’ve been to each other’s houses, text each other to make sure they’ll be at class, and often hold healthy-food parties after class. They also do outreach projects as a group, ranging from donating to the food cupboard at St. Andrew’s Church, to putting on red noses for Walgreen’s fundraiser to end child poverty, and sponsoring a child with gifts for the holidays. “You feel the caring from everyone. I felt a sense of community right away,” says Eileen.
In between classes, Eileen, who lives in Chili with her husband Steve, has been part of a book club for 17 years, and quilts. She returns to Pittsford Sutherland High School each spring to help facilitate a Problem Based Learning (PBL) project in AP Chemistry classes. Students use critical thinking skills to solve a problem of their choosing. “I love PBL—it’s the best of teaching. ”
She admits that she has surprised herself with the new lifestyle she’s acquired through her membership in the Westside Neighborhood Program. Eileen and her husband are mostly vegetarians now, and eat much healthier. “Mentally and physically, you gain more than you think,” she says. “This program has changed my life.”