When Dr. Roger Russo’s parents both died in 2004, he knew what their death certificates said were the causes of their deaths.
His mother, 71, died of pancreatic cancer and his father, 66, died of diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure. Still, Russo felt there was another cause of their death: lack of physical activity.
“The unofficial causes of death in my opinion, and as well all the research, was lack of physical activity,” Russo said. “Physical activity is needed by all seniors and every age group to help them with the various illnesses or chronic issues that can occur.”
That same year, Russo started a program called Stay Fit Seniors aimed at helping seniors remain active.
“Stay Fit Seniors is a 30-minute circuit training program. It’s a wellness program,” he said. “It’s designed to work every major muscle group of the body, designed to work your heart, your lungs and your mental capacity. At the same time, everybody has fun with the program because it’s all about social interaction.”
Russo, a chiropractor, works out of Congers and started the program and Dr. Anthony Lauro joined in 2006. Lauro works in Pomona and is still the vice president of the organization. This year, both locations serve more than 100 seniors.
Including the Congers and Pomona locations, Stay Fit Seniors has grown to 12 locations around the country. In Rockland, there are also programs at the Clarkstown Street School Community Center in New City and the Suffern Community Center in Suffern. There are also programs in California, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Connecticut and Michigan.
Russo said they recommend members come to the program twice a week and no more than three times. The program costs $5 per session, and is free for those who use the SilverSneakers Fitness Program. Russo added the first session is free and anyone interested in the program can read about it online at www.StayFitSeniors.com or call 845-268-5122.
Members of the program said the program has really helped improve their daily health.
“The program is wonderful. I always look forward to coming Wednesdays and Fridays to do my exercise. I feel it’s doing a great thing for me,” said Joe Velez, of Stony Point. “I’m 82-years-old and I feel like 34 beneath me. This is wonderful, this is wonderful. I advise everybody our age to come over here and do this.”
Mark Conklin, of Valley Cottage, has come to the program twice a week for about three and a half years.
“The exercise is very good,” she said. “It gets me going in the morning when I come, and I feel so much better afterwards, definitely. It’s kept me flexible and on the go.”
Salvatore Bulfamante, of Congers, has diabetes and said exercising through the program for the last two and a half years has helped his health.
“It’s helping me with my diabetes, it’s helping me move around better than I used to, which I never was able to do before,” he said.
Bulfamante added that he feels it’s one of the best things to ever happen to senior citizens in the area.
“I found extra muscles that I never knew I had by coming here,” he said.
Judy Biviano, of Congers, and her husband, Richard, have been a part of the program for about four years.
“I feel much better. If we have to skip a couple of weeks because we’re away or something, I can feel the difference,” she said.
“When I get out of bed in the morning, it’s easier for me to get up and get going.”
But the exercise isn’t the only thing Judy Biviano enjoys about the program.
“The best part of coming here is socializing,” she said. “You get to exercise and you get to socialize at the same time, and you have your chiropractor here if you have any questions of difficulties. It’s a wonderful thing.”