Carmel, N.Y. – To the delight of its seniors, the Carmel Friendship Center recently expanded their exercise room, which holds a multitude of classes and events. The project was promised to the seniors by Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell when she declared 2014 “The Year of the Senior.”

“If you want to know how your children will treat you when you grow old, remember they are watching how you treat your elders now,” said Odell. “So let’s show the generation behind us how we honor our elders – with gratitude and respect.”

Odell partnered with Fred Pena, commissioner of Putnam County’s Highways and Facilities Department to make this dream a reality.

“After reviewing the needs and the assessment of our seniors with the County Executive, our facilities and engineering staff have worked diligently to create a safe and enjoyable area for our seniors at the Donald B Smith Campus,” said Pena.”

The size of exercise room was increased from approximately 360 square feet to approximately 800 square feet. Pena made sure to address potential safety concerns by repairing the floors and adding an exercise bar for seniors who require extra stability.

The seniors are welcoming the change.

“I usually get 15 to 25 students in my class,” said George D’Alessandro of Carmel, chair fitness class instructor. “We used to have a waiting list of participants and I was limited before as to what type of exercises I could teach because of balance and safety issues. Now we have a balance bar and extra space so I have the freedom to teach a lot more.”

In addition to the chair fitness class on Wednesdays, the Carmel Friendship Center offers other fitness classes throughout the week such as Zumba, yoga, line dancing and Tai Chi.

Raphelaella Fattori, a resident of the Plaza at Clover Lake, is an active participant in chair fitness class, even as she nears her 101st birthday on July 7th. “I love coming to this class,” she said. “We have so much more room now.  It used to be too tight for us to do some of the exercises.”

Helping Putnam senior citizens stay active as they successfully progress through the “continuum of aging” is a role that the Office for Senior Resources Director Patricia Sheehy relishes.

“Seniors live healthier and happier lives if they exercise and participate in fitness activities,” said Sheehy. “We used to have to limit the number of classes a senior could attend to make sure that everyone had an opportunity to go. Now we encourage them to attend as many classes as they want.”

Sheehy and her staff oversee a myriad of opportunities which aid Putnam residents who are 60 years and older. Hundreds of seniors gather daily throughout the four Friendship and Nutrition Centers in Putnam County to enjoy exercise, arts and education programs, lunch and each other’s company.

“Seniors are among our most valuable residents,” says Odell. “We need to honor and embrace the wisdom that our seniors possess. They are our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. They are our veterans, first responders and volunteers. They are our teachers, our mentors and our business leaders as well as leaders in doing charitable work with our not-for-profits.”

According to the New York State Office for Aging, and based on information from 2010 Census, Putnam’s senior population, those aged 60 years and older, now account for 1 in every 4 residents in Putnam County. The county has the fastest growing senior population in the state.

The Carmel Friendship Center serves seniors in the Carmel, Kent, Patterson and Brewster communities. The county also has friendship centers in Mahopac, Cold Spring and Putnam Valley.