2017-10-11 / Voice at the Shore

JCC senior fitness instructor goes above and beyond in caring for class

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore editor


Senior fitness instructor Mary Anne Mazur (center, in white), with students (from left) Dolly Diamond, Lovey Callahan, Arnold Cranston, Shoshana Levin, and Shelly Taroff. Senior fitness instructor Mary Anne Mazur (center, in white), with students (from left) Dolly Diamond, Lovey Callahan, Arnold Cranston, Shoshana Levin, and Shelly Taroff. Mary Anne Mazur teaches seated fitness and conditioning classes for older adults at the JCC in Margate, but as everyone at the JCC knows, she is way more than a fitness instructor.

“She is so special and caring,” said Betsy Twersky, who has taken Mazur’s class for the past 12 years. “She makes everyone feel welcome and calm, and everyone opens up to her.”

“She is so inspirational and positive,” said Donna Innis, a JCC fitness instructor who views Mazur as a mentor and sometimes substitutes for her class. “She’s not just going for moves; she cares about every single person in that class.”

JCC member Shelly Taroff agreed. “She is genuinely the nicest, warmest most empathetic person in the world,” said Taroff.


Senior fitness instructor Mary Anne Mazur recently received JCC’s Sadie Nauy Older Adult Services Award. Senior fitness instructor Mary Anne Mazur recently received JCC’s Sadie Nauy Older Adult Services Award. Mazur recently was honored as the recipient of the JCC’s Sadie Nauy Older Adult Services Award. She was taken by surprise when JCC’s COO Marg Mancuso Rosenblatt showed up at her class to give her the prestigious award. “I thought maybe I was getting fired!” said Mazur, recalling what went through her mind when she saw Rosenblatt and JCC fitness director Antoinette Wood waiting outside of her class just before they came in to give her the award, which Mazur described as “a beautiful crystal flame.”

“They came in and surprised her and she cried!” recalled her long-time student Lovey Callahan.

JCC’s Rosenblatt described Mazur as “an exemplary leader” who “has made remarkable contributions to the JCC” since she began teaching fitness there 23 years ago.

“She’s just an amazing person; she has a natural ability to bring out the best in people,” said Rosenblatt. “She is really interested in who you are,” not just that you are taking her class. She remembers everyone’s names and makes sure to find out something about each person that she can connect with, she added. “She asks about your kids and grandkids, how you are, and visits people who are in her class who are sick.”

Mazur, who is about to turn 80 years old, “looks 60 but acts 40,” said Taroff.

Mazur currently teaches at the JCC on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:45 a.m. Class participants are mostly older adults “roughly age 62 to 92,” she said, but there are also younger people with physical limitations and those who prefer a gentler class.

Although most participants have been coming to her class for many years, newcomers don’t feel left out; each receives a very warm and personal welcome from Mazur, who engages them in conversation right away. It’s clear that for everyone involved, the class is about way more than just fitness.

As Mazur described her students, “They’re my friends. We’re like family. If I don’t see them, I call them—I worry about them!”

But it’s also about fitness. After students file into the room, they set up rows of chairs and everyone grabs fitness balls, bands and other equipment to use during the class. At the start of class, all who are able stand and do simple stretches and movements, then sit in the chairs to do bigger movements to upbeat Motown music. The hour-long class then alternates between seated and standing exercises as it continues, with some people doing modified versions of the exercises.

“I try to individualize the class for people who ask for help,” noted Mazur. Participants do what they can and use what they need. An 89-year-old-woman keeps her walker by her chair, and a woman with Parkinson’s uses two chairs— one to sit in, and one to hold her equipment.

Meanwhile, passersby in the hallway outside the room full of seniors occasionally watch the class through a wall of glass windows. “I’ve got to get my mom in there!” one young woman tells her friend as they walk past. The friend agrees.

Teaching older people, especially women, is something Mazur wanted to do since shortly after taking her first fitness class—and loving it—at age 57. A mother of 6 (who now has 18 grandchildren), she had never set foot in a gym until her daughters encouraged her to go. Before that, “I had no time, raising all those kids!” she explained.

Mazur got her fitness-teaching credentials, began subbing, and ultimately started teaching her own high-power, high-impact classes. Twelve years ago, she discovered a fitness program tailored to older adults, called “Silver Sneakers,” got certified, and began offering classes to older adults at the JCC.

It’s been very rewarding, said Mazur. “I love it. I look forward to teaching.”

The Atlantic City native added that she didn’t mind people knowing her age. “If I can do it, you can do it,” stressed Mazur.

“I encourage people to come. It’s so important to move!” she said. “You feel better, you look better, and you can throw away some of the medicine.”

Do what you can, she added, just do something to “keep your joints oiled!”

Thanks to Mazur, many local seniors and others look forward to moving and getting their joints oiled—because it comes with a generous helping of caring and friendship. “She has the kindest heart! She makes everyone want to do things,” said Shelly Taroff. 

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