Not long after taking John Acosta’s exercise class at Southwestern College, Mary Roach was no longer sitting in a wheelchair. After five brain surgeries and some dedicated time to Acosta’s exercise class, she was stepping into class with a walker.
Acosta’s face was surprised and in awe of his student’s newest accomplishment. He and the rest of her classmates watched her walk in and they echoed the room with a round of applause.
As an instructor in Continuing Education, and a gerontologist with 25 years of experience, Acosta understands the importance of the senior community. That is why he advocated for programs specifically geared towards seniors. He has worked many years teaching courses, such as “Getting Organized,” “Retirement” and “Safety and Community Resources,” to make a difference in the community.
During his time teaching at Southwestern College he met Roach. While she began attending classes in a wheelchair, she is now a walking testimony to how the mind, body and soul need to keep going to be healthy.
Roach first learned about the various Continuing Education programs at Southwestern when her mom and stepfather started taking classes. They, in turn, dragged her along to Acosta’s exercise classes.
Mary ended up in a wheelchair due to having five brain surgeries in a span of three years in 1995 – 1997, three surgeries were performed in 1997. Mary once was able to walk a little over a mile to work every day, but with each surgery walking became increasingly difficult. She then decided to take the subways in Washington DC but then her body deteriorated even further by taking cabs. The lack of constant mobility led to her to depend on the wheelchair to be mobile.
In 2000, Mary began taking Acsota’s exercise class again regularly after her last surgery and moving to California in 1999. She was a big part of the class. She made an effort to participate and help in every way that she could by making a contact sheet so the class could stay connected with each other. She made videos for her peers to help guide them through new processes, and did every exercise her body allowed.
“When you are younger and you get hurt, you can just push through it,” Roach said. “But when you are older, little inconveniences are a little harder to deal with.
“I think that is just a part of the aging process,” she said. “That’s why John’s class is so invaluable. His class prevents us from getting stiff, gives us a reason to get out of the house, and gives folk’s like me the opportunity to be social.”
“I think having resources like these classes are so important for our community,” he said. “Stories like Mary’s only motivate me further because every community needs resources that will encourage and bring our people together.
“People’s physical health is very important, but so are people’s mental health,” Acosta said. “Resources like these classes create a space where our elderly community can be physically active, socially connected and mentally strong.”
For more information about enrolling in Continuing Education, where many of the classes are free, go to www.swccd.edu/continuinged.