Skating for fun, fitness… and romance

Gert and Norm Boadway met at the Old Orchard outdoor skating rink on Dovercourt Road in Toronto in the late 1920s. Today, the couple — who have been married for 62 years — still skate twice a week as members of the Jordan Adult Skating Club.

Gert is a lively 84 years of age, while Norm is two years her elder. They’re part of a group known as Super Seniors – the club’s tribute to members aged 80 and up. All told, there are eight Super Seniors at the Jordan Adult Skating Club, who, like the Boadways, credit their active lifestyle with keeping them vital and healthy.

“We wouldn’t be here if not for this sort of thing,” says Norm, who quit smoking 40 years ago.

“Exercise is the key thing, especially for older people. It’s the number one priority.”

“This is the greatest club,” agrees Gert, who moved to the Niagara area with her husband in 1973. “It’s just like one big family.”

That’s the kind of atmosphere club president Harry Lovgren and his wife Aura have nurtured and cultivated. The Lovgrens recognize the benefits of physical fitness, but understand that a convivial environment in which to participate in a sport or activity is just as important.Everybody cares for one other,” says Aura, who explains that the social element of the club — from luncheon outings to Christmas parties — keeps its members interested and involved. Aura says the Jordan Adult Skating Club is a comfortable place for both couples and singles and there are quite a number of widows and widowers who combat their loneliness by being around other people, having some laughs while all the time staying in shape.

Upwards of 150 people from across the Niagara Region skate under the Jordan banner, ranging in age from their 40s to their 80s. Most of the skaters are retirees, enabling them to schedule skating sessions two mornings a week. The cost is minimal – only $2 for two hours of skating, and the coffee, cocoa and donuts served at the mid-morning break are included.

Besides the fun, exercise and reasonable costs, Harry Lovgren says the choice of music also enthuses members.

“Some arenas play jazz or boogie-woogie, but you can’t skate to that type of music,” says Harry, who makes sure there’s a good mix of rhythmic recordings to accompany the skaters, from polkas to pop to classical. But all are characterized by what Harry terms a “skating lilt” which keeps the body gliding smoothly over the ice.

That’s important for people who have experienced various ailments over the years. Harry himself had a heart attack in 1983, and also suffered from a blockage in his leg which cut his circulation by 60 per cent.

Rather than undergo drastic surgical measures to correct the problem, Harry decided to increase his physical fitness regimen. Besides skating twice a week throughout the fall and winter, he and other club members extend their active lifestyle year-round by bicycling in the summer — more than 50 members participate in regularly scheduled seven to 10 kilometre bike rides along the Niagara Parkway. Others have added rollerblading, hiking, swimming or canoeing to their physical routines.

“My physical activities have built up my strength so I can ice skate, rollerskate and hike,” says Harry, whose circulation is back up to 100 per cent. “By exercising you definitely feel better, and taking part in these activities gives you a real psychological lift.”

“We’re able to lead a fuller life,” agrees Aura, who also swims three times a week. “We’re active people sports-wise, and that’s been good for us. We’re quite happy and we face each day full of energy. My mother used to tell me I’d never sit down for anything, and that’s still true.” The Lovgrens go out of their way to make newcomers welcome. And they don’t all have to be sports addicts or in top physical form. They accommodate everyone, regardless of ability, endurance level — or age.

Helen Oatway of Fonthill grew up on skates as a kid but stopped when she raised her family. Now a two-time widow, the 74-year-old is back on her blades. She’s been skating for the past 15 years and ran the club with her second husband for five years. And despite her spate of injuries over the years – everything from a smashed knee (since replaced), dislocated collarbone, broken foot, broken wrist, broken arm, and various surgeries – Oatway keeps skating.

“I couldn’t live without it,” she says. “It’s my whole life and I love it, and it’s definitely helped in my recoveries. But attitude has a lot to do with it. I don’t go around feeling sorry for myself. I’ve always had a good mental outlook. I like fun, I have tons of friends here, and I’m living.”

That sentiment is echoed by many of the club’s members, including the Boadways who won’t let anything interfere with participating in their favorite activity. Even when Norm’s eyesight began to fail more than 20 years ago and curbed the couple’s extensive travel schedule, Gert took the bull by the horns and learned to drive at the age of 72. Now, every Tuesday and Thursday morning when the Boadways head to the Jordan Arena, Gert is behind the wheel.

“You do what you have to do,” smiles Gert, as she and Norm head for the ice, still skating together after 70 years.