COVID Q&A with Nicole Perry

by Jul 16, 2020North Brunswick, People

A talk with Nicole Perry, director of the Fitness & Wellness Center at Brunswick Forest, about how the center is dealing with the new normal.

Before COVID-19, what was it normally like at the Fitness & Wellness Center?
It is always a steady flow of residents throughout the day. This is where everyone wants to be for physical fitness and socialization.

What are the age groups that normally attend and what types of activities to they do there?
Our members are mostly 60 and older, and this is their social place. We have a huge gym where we do all of our group classes. On the other side of the facility is a gym with cardio equipment. So, they can either attend teacher-led classes or workout on their own.

What happened once COVID-19 hit and how did you adjust?
We shut down the day after St. Patrick’s Day, and some of us stayed and worked in the facility for about a week, but after it became more serious, we were told to go home. It took me and Michelle Cordero, who is the fitness coordinator, about two weeks to begin offering 48 classes a week via Zoom. We offer classes in yoga, Zumba and cardio, and the virtual classes are free. The attendance was very similar to the physical attendance here at the facility.

The feedback I got from the residents is they love that connection from their instructor. They have been working with that person for months or even years, and getting to see and hear his or her voice was important in quarantine. Residents figured out Zoom and love it. We even offered weekly virtual Reiki classes from one of our massage therapists.

Is there a consistent group of residents now or has it fluctuated?
It’s been pretty consistent. The weather also plays a factor. A rainy week will have a lot more participation online. I put together a bingo game with different challenges on it. For example, go for a walk and take a picture of yourself walking, take a picture of the bridge in the neighborhood or just a hide and seek kind of thing. Many people gave the feedback that they were thankful for the ideas, as they had been feeling stranded and looking for something fun to do. We do understand we are in a high-risk area and are mindful of this. Each resident has the choice to stay inside or do the outside activities.


Do the virtual activities help the residents to stay healthy by being involved and staying active?
Yes, absolutely! Doing exercise raises the endorphins and counteracts the depression of being alone. Everyone has their good days and their bad days, but I find the good days outweigh the bad if you exercise. Daily exercise activities keep people on a schedule, and routines are beneficial.

Did virtual classes exist before COVID-19, and do you foresee continuing these classes after everything reopens?
We did not have virtual classes before, and we had discussed it. We are outgrowing this facility and have broken ground on a new space. We are hearing from the governor it may be awhile before we can reopen as we used to be. So, yes, we have been discussing keeping the online classes going.

Do you feel this will be a great alternative for residents in the future versus coming to the facility?
Yes, and if they have any underlying conditions preventing them to come to the gym. It also keeps our instructors employed, which is a plus.

Once reopened, if the residents prefer to be on site to socialize, what does that look like?
The fitness and wellness outdoor pool is open for socializing following CDC guidelines for social distancing. We also have an on-site health coach, Alan Murphy. He’s been offering small outdoor group classes in the back of our current facility. He offers a walking class, a TRX class set up 6-feet apart, and only six people are allowed in the class at a time. This is another way to get people engaged and outside.

Once you begin reopening, is there a plan for how residents will be allowed to attend?
The Board of Directors are following the CDC guidelines and direction from Governor Cooper. Once we hear their decision, we will be getting that information out to all of the residents as soon as possible.

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