Ouray County: Neighbor to Neighbor offers exercise, community and smiles

by Mary Pat Haddock

Neighbor to Neighbor is a nonprofit volunteer organization serving Ouray County seniors, disabled and homebound individuals. The program provides transportation for participants from anywhere in Ouray County (roads permitting) for all of their programs, which include senior lunches, walking hours, Polar Bear water aerobics, shopping trips and special events. Neighbor to Neighbor’s van has a lift on the back to accommodate wheelchairs and any other special needs participants may have.

During the cold weather, on Tuesdays, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., World War II era music plays in Ouray’s Community Center while seniors have an opportunity to stretch their legs and walk laps on a level, snow free surface. A volunteer marks down each lap a participant takes, and the walkers each know how many laps they walked the week before and do their best to hit the same or better number. Some walkers are faster than others, but everyone encourages each other and personal bests are clearly valued by all.
Participant Joan Fedel, who has lived in Ouray since 1945 and says she “hates to tell people she’s 91 because then they treat her like she is 91,” credits the walking and water aerobics with “keeping her health going.” Participant Gemma Mattivi, who came from Italy to Ouray with her husband in 1949, agreed with Fedel, saying both activities “help her stay in shape.” Participant Dorothy Dougherty, who arrived in Ouray in 1947, said she likes “all of it.”
Beginning Apr. 2, Neighbor to Neighbor will offer an optional armchair exercise program for the first half hour of the walking hour. The program will allow seniors to stretch and exercise while following a DVD specially designed for their age group.  
Neighbor to Neighbor has a list of nearly 60 local seniors whom they serve throughout the year. They offer regular transportation to Montrose on Thursdays for shopping and doctor’s appointments. Participant Sharon Behm said that her favorite activities are the special events, like the Mardi Gras party and High Teas. Every other Wednesday, the group has lunch at one of the churches in Ouray or Ridgway. For the seniors who crave culture, the Wright Opera House offers a senior discount on tickets for various performances and Neighbor to Neighbor provides transportation for any senior needing a ride to a show.
Participant Dave Sullivan praised the program, saying, “The volunteers who help us are really special.” Returning the compliment, Annamarie Bauer, senior coordinator for Neighbor to Neighbor, said, “Seniors in this county are especially independent, they’re just inspiring. Weather doesn’t stop them, that’s for sure.”