By Kirra Grimes

SENIOR citizens in Bass and surrounds will soon have access to their very own state of the art outdoor gym, thanks to the sustained fundraising efforts of a local community group.

After several years of campaigning, the not for profit Bass Valley Community Group recently secured a $10,000 Bass Coast Shire Council grant to install specialist exercise equipment for over 65s at the Bass Valley Community Centre, and hopes to have it all up and running by spring.

Centre manager Roderick McIvor was thrilled to get the good news late last month, telling the Sentinel-Times the project represented a significant opportunity to improve the health and wellbeing of an age bracket often encouraged to increase their physical activity, but lacking opportunities to do so in a social environment.

“A Seniors’ Gym is the answer for many older people whose medical advice is often that they need to access more exercise,” Roderick said.

“Exercise isn’t readily available if you are older and not sure what might be safe activity. [Yet] research is increasing pointing to exercise being essential for older persons, both to help them avoid falls and also as an inhibitor of the development and progress of dementia.”

The gym and attending instructors will complement the ‘Community Care’ program already on offer through the Centre, which focuses on increasing independence and combatting social isolation in seniors, as well as adults living with a disability or long-term illness, Roderick said.

Bass Valley Community Centre’s Friendship Group, pictured with the community bus, will be some of the first to use the new equipment when installation is complete in spring.

About 20 regular attendees were expected to make use of the new gym facilities from the get-go, but the hope is that many more people will benefit in the long term.

“We are very much hoping that as well as this facility being an important part of our own program, it will be used by the wider older community,” Roderick said.

“We’ll be encouraging other groups running programs for older people to come and visit and use it on a regular basis.”

The project will cost around $40,000 to complete, with the $10,000 council grant supplementing previous grants of $11,000 from the Bendigo Bank and $10,000 from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, as well as the Centre’s own fundraising, through the volunteer-run Bass Valley Op Shop.

It’s been a dream for over two years now, and Roderick and the team are delighted to be able to say it’s finally “full steam ahead”.

“We had the design done in March 2018 and we’d gotten to the stage where if something didn’t happen soon, we were going to have to downsize it. This grant has finally enabled us to get it off the ground,” Roderick said.