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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Aging & able


The environment was brimming with elder citizens who didn’t act like they’ve been working for a long time, or were tired at all. (Photo by Richard Gutiérrez/The San Juan Daily Star)

Activity club for elders holds inaugural Olympics event


By Richard Gutiérrez

richardsanjuanstar@gmail.com


It’s no secret that the elderly population in Puerto Rico is growing, not just because birth rates across the island are at an all-time low or because many young people leave the island in search of better opportunities, but also because people live longer than they used to.


To some, this growing population may be regarded as a burden, or as a group of people that should probably stay home and watch TV all day, waiting for their children to come over and visit them once a month or so. However, many of these people are not doing any of that; they are quite active and happy about taking part in different events in the community and having a good time being active. And more than 435 of them got together to do just that on Wednesday at Pedrín Zorrilla Coliseum in Hato Rey.


“These are the first ever Olympics of the Hot Feet group!” a spokesperson told the STAR.


“The Hot Feet group is an initiative of MMM healthcare [and is] included as a benefit from our plan; however, it is important to note that not all Hot Feet members are affiliated with our plan -- anyone over the age of 65 can join the Hot Feet group and have a good time,” the spokesperson added. “These groups are scattered all over the island and dedicate themselves to performing different types of exercises all over the island. We expected 400 people but were surprised to receive over 435 members. Some groups aren’t here, such as ‘sabe rojo,’ otherwise we’d have over 500 members of the Hot Feet group right here easily. This is the first time ever they have all gotten together to do just what they love, which is to be active, because the old people that take part in this are not the stereotypical old man who’s sitting home all day doing nothing, these people like being active and are enjoying life to the fullest.”


“We have been opening more and more spaces,” the spokesperson said. “Our goal with this is to motivate elders to stay active and stay healthy and socialize among themselves, because a lot of times people get to that age and they get isolated from their family and others as well.”


The environment was brimming with elders who didn’t act like they’ve been working for a long time, or were tired at all. Instead, the atmosphere was very much alive with people dancing and enjoying their time among each other. The conditions at Pedrín Zorrilla were well suited for the elderly population as there was refreshingly cool air conditioning. With heat waves occurring all around the island, it was the right choice.


San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero Lugo visited the event and was visibly pleased to be there, shaking hands with members of Hot Feet groups from nearly all the island municipalities that have them -- a total of 18 groups representing 15 municipalities, minus Cabo Rojo.


The mayor was also pleased that the event was held in the well-air-conditioned environs of the coliseum.


“In terms of Puerto Rico, we have a high population of elderly people,” the mayor told the STAR. “Here in San Juan, more than 38% of the population is over the age of 60, the sector of the island’s population that is 65 years or older being the only one that raised its numbers according to the Census of the year 2020. Therefore, our public policies state that it is crucially important that facilities such as these are available for events like this, as well as other facilities in the city. We are the capital of the island; therefore, we must make these facilities available to other municipalities as well.”


“I am very pleased to be enjoying the Hot Feet event,” Romero added. “If we get to do more of these, they’ll happen here.”


Apart from opening the capital city’s arms to elders participating in such events, the mayor also stated that the city wants to continue incentivizing young people to stay active as well, and continue empowering different sports teams.


Joining the mayor at the event were celebrities such as Raymond Arrieta, the host of two shows on Telemundo, “Dia a Dia” and “Raymond y Sus Amigos,” and Alex DJ, host of the rather popular show “Puerto Rico Gana.”


“I am part of MMM myself. I have always supported the elderly population,” Arrieta told the STAR. “Not just with our program ‘Dia a Dia,’ which is very much directed toward this group of people so they don’t feel alone, but by participating in these events as well.”


The event had plenty of physical activity games, but also had plenty of other games that required using the brain more than the body.


“Our mission has always been to provide a coordination of integrated health services both mental and physical, and the Hot Feet groups are part of different initiatives to promote physical activity in elders,” MMM President Ricardo Rivera Cardona told the STAR. “Elders can have an active and healthy lifestyle; especially if they stay physically active and interact with each other, they can have a much more enjoyable and happy life.”


Judging from events like this one, it appears that the elderly community on the island has considerable support from both the public and private sectors. There are options and communities for them in nearly every corner of the island, but the best part of all seems to be that they enjoy it.


“I feel so happy, being here,” participant María de los Angeles said. “I’m with my group, my people, the volunteers are all so young and kind, the facilities are very good and we have so much fun. We need more of that in both the private and public sector, especially for our community.”


“We have to pay attention to this community because there are a lot of us and we still have a lot to give to the island,” she added. “We have to work together with the youth in order to bring Puerto Rico to a good place, using our experience and their strength.”

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