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Moore Aquatic and Fitness Center: Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle 

Did you know that the Chicago Bulls once held their practices on the very site now occupied by the Moore Aquatic and Fitness Center? At the time, this site was home to a large gymnasium and smaller swimming pool. You may have heard the gym at Conway referred to as the “small gym”—that’s because it was the smaller of the two gyms on campus, although now the Conway gym is the only gym on campus. In 1989, the large gymnasium and pool were razed, and the current center was built.

Moore Aquatic and Fitness Center was designed with a walk-in pool that transitions to a depth of 3 feet, 9 inches, making it safer and more accessible for the residents. Although not as deep as the original pool, the new pool is much larger, and the site of the original pool is now the fitness room. The Center is open 7 days a week, including several evenings, and offers a wide variety of programs and services.

The Aquatic Center has adaptive equipment for those with physical limitations, a hot tub, a mushroom waterfall, and several sprinklers. In addition, various types of swim aids and pool toys are available, such as basketball hoops, pool noodles, and dive sticks. In the Aquatic Center, residents can attend recreational swim sessions and developmental swim sessions, which focus on learning and improving swimming skills. Several swim teams practice here: beginning and advanced Special Olympics teams, and non-ambulatory. Hydrotherapy is also held in the Aquatic Center.

The Fitness Center offers lots of different equipment and programs. The various fitness machines include treadmills. ellipticals, rowing machines, weight machines, recumbent bikes, bands, and Pilate balls. As many of the residents are aging, the center has added more recumbent equipment to work on muscle strength. Programs include physical fitness, weight training, powerlifting, boxing, and home exercise programs. Positioning training is also provided for those who are wheelchair bound.

Moore Center also oversees some fitness programs outside of the Center itself. Staff go into some of the residences to teach yoga, lead exercises, and conduct sit-and-be-fit activities. Staff lead a walking club and oversee some of the Special Olympics programs. The Recreation and Leisure program, which is a separate entity, oversees various other related programs, including all activity at the Conway gym.

MaryAnn Zielke-Allen is in charge of Moore Center and has been at Misericordia since 2007. She works with one additional full-time staff member, one part-time staff, and one relief staff. MaryAnn says her team is the best and helps out wherever they are needed. They serve approximately 50–75 residents at the pool in an average week. An even larger number of residents, 75–100, partake in fitness each week. These numbers reflect the current time; prior to the pandemic, the numbers were even higher, and the hope is to get back to those numbers. Another goal is to welcome back family members who previously joined their family member in the pool.

The services at Moore Center have a direct effect on the health of the residents who use the facility. Many residents attend to lose weight or recover from an injury or surgery. The NuStep recumbent machines are perfect for recovery following knee and hip replacements because they are designed to keep the joints moving without forcing direct pressure on weakened areas.

MaryAnn shared the success story of one of the residents who began as a non-ambulatory participant. She started with chair activities but was able to walk very short distances with staff assistance. She began using the treadmill gait trainer and was eventually able to walk independently on the treadmill. She progressed from five minutes of endurance time to 30 minutes with only short periodic breaks—a wonderful success story for her and for the staff at Moore!

The Center also provides job opportunities for some of the residents: folding towels, answering the door, greeting participants, vacuuming rugs, sweeping floors, cleaning counters, and cleaning equipment. Prior to the pandemic, outside volunteers helped in the Fitness Center and the hope is that this will resume in the near future.

Walking clubs and swim teams are two of the most popular activities. The staff set goals and find other ways to encourage those who might not be inclined to seek out physical activity. For example, music-loving residents who work out twice a week get to choose the music on their next visit, where they might dance instead of using the exercise equipment. Another example is a program set up in collaboration with the staff at Shannon Apartments--residents who swim or exercise get a ticket that gets put into a box. Names are drawn from the box and winners receive a prize. And Moore staff work with the QIDPs to come up with individualized reward programs for particularly reluctant couch potatoes.

The Center is funded primarily through donations to provide new equipment or fund essential upgrades. Between grants, private donations, and Giving Tree gifts, we look forward to what the future will bring to Moore Aquatic and Fitness Center.