Inspiring Stories

Strength at Any Age: Sponsored Athletes 2021 Wrap-Up

Year Two of the Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete program launched in June 2021 with a new team roster of five outstanding older adult athletes. From functional fitness to dancing, lawn bowling to rebounding — and yes, even competitive powerlifting — an array of new and exciting sports and activities was introduced to the Senior Planet community by this year’s team. As the 2021 program has now come to a close, we asked our athletes one last series of questions:

What has been the highlight of your wellness journey during your time as a Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete? What final tips/advice do you have for our community?

Hollis Wagenstein-Hurturk, 70

My stint as a Sponsored Athlete has changed me for better and for good! I was always an enthusiastic exerciser.  Now I’m also a more intentional exerciser. In the past I’d gone through phases where I focused on a single modality, often for years at a time. First it was step aerobics, then lap swimming, then Pilates, then strength training. Now I had to switch focus to the diversity as well as the discipline of functional fitness, incorporating multiple modalities.

I was no longer just exercising for myself; I was exercising for everyone else

I was no longer just exercising for myself; I was exercising for everyone else, to prove that age and disability were not obstacles to an athletic lifestyle. Now I really had to walk the talk! It’s an interesting paradox that both variety and consistency work hand in hand to make functional fitness training so rewarding. It challenges all muscle groups and builds different skills: strength, balance, flexibility, and stamina. The benefits trickle down to daily living, making it safer and more enjoyable. I’ve noticed that I can open heavy doors, hoist heavier packages, navigate uneven pavement, maneuver unexpected speed bumps, and meet other challenges with easier confidence. It worked because I worked it!

I intend to spend my remaining years as a vocal advocate for adaptive functional fitness training for adults of all ages, levels, aptitudes and attitudes. Functional fitness is the oxygen of exercise — we all need it, we can’t live without it, and it helps us in everything we do. I’m awed to see so many seniors strive for high fitness levels, and I’m so proud to stand among you.


Elisse Barnes, 60

“Don’t go for the quick fix. Slow and steady wins the race. And be kind to yourself. We’re human, so nothing we do is ever perfect. Don’t beat yourself up when you have a lapse. Go back to doing the right thing as soon as you can.

Don’t go for the quick fix. Slow and steady wins the race.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to take care of your health, because it makes the rest of your responsibilities so much easier to accomplish.”


Mark Newton, 60

“The highlight of my wellness journey has been meeting so many amazing seniors — from the other sponsored athletes to all the participants in the online sessions. They are so inspiring. I appreciate hearing their stories. Mostly, I drew so much inspiration from their stories. Those stories energized me to continue my health, fitness and play journey. I, too, want to continue to inspire them and all the newcomers. My advice is: You can do this! One step at a time. Do what you can, have fun, and strive everyday to be better. It’s possible. No, it will happen!


Arlene Toonkel, 68

“Teaching the rebounding class on Zoom to our community was the definite highlight of my year as a Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete! (Check out my top rebounding tips here.) Being in service to others is so incredibly rewarding. Seeing the connections that others made with rebounding — bringing out their rebounders from different areas of their home, uncovering and starting to use them again, or purchasing one and even using the rebounder and the stabilizing bar for support to participate in Senior Planet’s online fitness classes — was truly heartwarming and inspiring to me. It has been amazing to see the connections made in our community for improved wellness through rebounding.

Learning from the variety of instructors and classes on Senior Planet taught me so many different forms of exercises and modalities for wellness (like Qigong, chair yoga, stretching, tai chi, and more!) I was able to use this knowledge to enhance my own fitness exercises on the rebounder by combining them with my own methods. It allowed me to create many new routines to include in my workouts that are a combination of eastern and western exercise — reflecting my growth this past year.

Every day is an opportunity to build your strength, oxygenate and detoxify your body, and improve your mobility through the practice of rebounding — even if it is only for 5 minutes, several times a day. It works and is a gentle on your body tool for improved wellness and graceful aging.”


Abbey Moon, 77

“The highlight of my wellness journey as a Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete has been the development of two ideas that are starting me on a new journey. First of all, I have realized that working out and exercising are things I do because I love them, and my own thinking has evolved into treating it like a part-time job. At work, if I want to stay employed, I have to show up. I can miss a few days, but if it becomes a pattern, there will be consequences and I will lose my job. With exercise, if I am not consistent, my energy and optimism start to fade. I lose strength and then when I go return, it is so much harder to get back into a routine. So, if I treat working out like a job I want to go to — because of all its benefits like a strong body, openness to life, challenging myself to try new things, and being in charge of my life by the time I reach 85 — it flows, and I follow.

I would like to get seniors motivated so they start defining themselves and not accept the limitations our society puts on older people.

Secondly, I have decided to become a certified trainer whose specialty is working with seniors. I loved leading the Zoom class (link below) and realized I could help people become stronger. I would like to get seniors motivated so they start defining themselves and not accept the limitations our society puts on older people. I believe that we need to be challenged and try things we were afraid would be too difficult to accomplish. So my goal for 2022 is to find a program and get certified, and my hope is that Senior Planet would hire me to teach a class.

The tips I have for the community are: Do not let anyone define you as frail, but instead think of yourself as strong, mighty, and determined. Exercise keeps our bodies strong and our minds alive, and enables us to stay open to new experiences. Keep coming back, even if you miss a few days — define it as a detour, and it will become easier. Find a workout partner. And lastly, keep in mind that if you stay healthy and fit, you will be able to make decisions about how you spend your senior years. Stay determined to be in charge of your life.

Lastly, I want to thank Senior Planet for the wonderful opportunity to be a Sponsored Athlete, and thank all the people who gave so freely of their time, love, and support. You are truly an amazing organization and thank you from the bottom of my heart.”


Thank you to all of our amazing athletes who shared their personal wellness journeys with the Senior Planet community this year. We wish all of you a safe and healthy 2022! For a look back on everyone’s stories and blog entries, click here.


2 responses to “Strength at Any Age: Sponsored Athletes 2021 Wrap-Up

  1. Thanks. This was really interesting. I subscribe to a 3x weekly hour long zoom class for older adults given by a terrific young woman, Hedy Yankelovich, in which we do all of the exercises shown for functional fitness. I do planks. I am interested in learning to do power lifting.
    I am 92 in March and play doubles tennis weekly, exercise and walk almost every day. I have no problems with knees or hips or anything actually.

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