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Strength through Struggle: How health classes and exercise helped a Camarillo resident regain her independence

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Patricia, a special education administrator in Van Nuys, retired in July 2021 and moved to Camarillo to be closer to her son. At 80 years old, she became an avid walker, putting in 3 to 4 miles a day. But while walking alone one day last September, she tripped on the sidewalk and fell, and had to be rushed to the hospital.

“At first, I thought I just had the wind knocked out of me and I tried to catch my breath,” she said.

Luckily, two workmen saw what happened, helped her up and called her son. Patricia had a compound fracture of her arm and the doctors sent her for emergency surgery. After five days in the hospital, she entered a skilled nursing facility for two weeks and then assisted living before she returning home.  And even so, the doctors suggested looking into long-term care or perhaps a more permanent senior-living facility for her.

So, Patricia became focused on her health, joining the Camarillo Health Care District’s (District) twice-weekly Walking Group last November, the Matter of Balance and Tai Chi classes, and participating in the Senso balance program to reduce her fall risks and improve her cognitive skills.

“I think I had something to prove to myself and my son,” she said.

“Because of the Camarillo Health Care District, I regained my sense of who I was.”

Patricia also joined a second walking group at the Channel Islands Harbor, and a Wednesday and Friday morning stretch and exercise class at the senior center in Camarillo.

Although she’s not opposed to the idea of a senior-living facility, she feels it’s not yet time and credits her exercises and strengthening activities with growing stronger. 

“These health promotion classes and skill-developing opportunities help to positively impact socialization and decrease feelings of loneliness by bringing people together to share experiences and learning opportunities,” said Blair Barker, director of Care Services for the District.

Patricia is grateful for the opportunity to exercise while also making friends.

“This is like my gift to myself now that I am retired – this and travel,” she said.

“It helped me feel human again and gave me a sense of confidence. I felt more like myself, and I’ve really enjoyed meeting new people. When you retire, it’s hard to make new friends. So having these activities brought me together with people.”

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One thing she learned in the District’s Matter of Balance class is that there are some choices and strategies that can be employed to help prevent falls, and to help maximize health and activity levels.

“I took that to heart,” Patricia said. “I really feel like you gave me my confidence back. Everyone on staff has been great. They are very supportive and encouraging.”

Director of Care Services Blair Barker said the fear of falling can make our lives smaller without us even realizing it. “We fear a fall will happen, so we retreat,” she said. “We don’t see there are opportunities to positively change our perspective, our thinking and interaction with the world around us. It’s our right to take the power back – safely, of course – and know that falling is not necessarily a normal part of aging and can often be prevented.”

Patricia always has been a positive person. She is friendly, outgoing, enjoys being active and outdoors, quilting and sewing, and reading mysteries and historic fiction. Prior to the pandemic, she was a world traveler, and hopes one day to return to Paris, and go on a trip to Italy, Croatia and Greece that she had to postpone because of pandemic travel restrictions. (And if she can’t, there’s always the District’s “Adventures in VR” classes and, in particular, “Alcove,” which offers virtual travel by car, bus or hot-air balloon.)

To learn more about the District’s Moving and Strengthening classes, visit the website at or call 805-388-1952, ext. 100, to speak to a resource specialist.

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