Sometimes a gym is more than a place to work out. Mine, the Page Mill YMCA, is a mile down the hill from my house in a far-from-fancy facility in the basement of a Palo Alto office building. This low-cost gym has developed quite a community in its 35 years -- hosting everything from racquetball tournaments to classes for those with Parkinson’s or recovering from cancer treatment, as well as TRX, spin, Zumba, Tai Chi, yoga, etc.
The teachers are terrific. Members have donated generously to YMCA summer camps in underserved communities, food and backpack drives and the like. They’ve formed lunch and dinner groups. At least a quarter of the members are 65 or older. I’ve made friends of all ages in my 6:00 am bust-our-buns total body resistance workout. It’s the sort of exercise the lead Alzheimer’s researcher at Stanford has said can improve cognitive function.
Unfortunately, this facility is set to close October 1, when the lease expires. The first time members were informed that the gym’s future was in any jeopardy came in a June 24 letter. The Y’s reasons for the closure, which are changing weekly, have raised suspicions and hackles. Thousands of comments have been posted on local news sites. Hundreds -- mostly older people -- showed up for a dinnertime meeting at a Palo Alto church to hear from Silicon Valley Y executives, and for them to hear from us. Managers still say the decision is “irreversible,” but that hasn’t stopped members from forming a save-the-gym task force and coming up with creative ways to continue operating. This is Silicon Valley, after all.
We Baby Boomers are getting up there in age. We want and need a reasonably priced gym for our physical, mental and social well-being, one we don’t have to commute more than half-an-hour to get to. The entire community loses when the needs of any sector are ignored.
We who work out want very much to work this out. Places where we can indulge the modern value of personal health and fitness plus the old-fashioned value of a caring community are not easy to find around here. Let’s hope a way can be found to keep what we have.