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How the JCC of Youngstown is serving homebound members through its J-Away program.

Community recreation centers thrive at seeing a need in the community and finding a way to meet it. 

In 2018, the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown determined a need for an in-home fitness program for its Jewish community members who would otherwise be unable to be physically active and exercise. 

In the beginning, the program identified “at need” Jewish community members — in collaboration with the Jewish Family Community Services outreach program — who were homebound or unable to take advantage of any exercise program at the JCC for a variety of reasons.

“Over the years and throughout the pandemic, the program has changed and evolved,” said Casey Atkinson, the wellness manager at the JCC of Youngstown. “Today, J-Away is designed to assist Jewish older adults of all abilities in the Youngstown area who need an exercise program. A JCC personal trainer creates personalized exercise plans and trains clients in their own home.”

J-Away sessions are purchased in packs of five, 10 or 20 at a minimal fee due to the support of the Thomases Family Endowment of the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation. 

After a client completes an intake form, the JCC fitness coordinator and certified personal trainer schedules one or two 30-minute fitness sessions per week depending on the client’s need. 

“On the initial visit, the trainer conducts a physical assessment to build the client’s personalized fitness plan,” explained Atkinson. “The trainer travels with all the necessary fitness equipment, including but not limited to dumbbells, exercise bands, weighted balls, ankle weights, step bench, etc. Participants also receive a free exercise band to keep at home for any exercise needs between visits.”

The J-Away participants progress’ is tracked, recorded and reviewed at each visit. Atkinson said the metrics for assessment include range of mobility analysis, increased physical ability and client feedback.

Additionally, individual instruction includes:

  • Proper breathing technique and rest period.
  • Proper tempo of each exercise movement.
  • Proper form and spinal support.
  • Goal setting and motivation.
  • Confidence in all body movements and walking.
  • Guidance toward importance of consistency.

While the program is designed to help those who cannot attend the JCC in-person to work out, Atkinson said many clients use it as motivation to get out of bed in the morning. In addition to all the physical benefits they gain from movement, participants also develop mental benefits from personal relationships with the JCC staff and the support system that develops.

“The J-Away program has been a shining light in the lives of its participants,” said Atkinson. “The pride and enthusiasm of the participants when they recognize personal growth and achievements is immeasurable.” 

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Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor of Community Rec Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com.

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