There’s a saying that if a friendship lasts longer than seven years, it is likely to last a lifetime.
Dorothy Davis and Betty Frederick first met at St. Mary’s School in New Britain, and have been best friends since the second grade. After elementary school, they both attended New Britain High before becoming roommates at the St. Francis nurse-training program. After graduation, Dorothy served in Korea with the Navy for three years, and Betty stayed in New Britain to become a school nurse for the district. Following the Navy, Dorothy moved to Plainville and worked at New Britain General Hospital. They were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings, and have seen each other’s families grow to include children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. Through this time, they have been there for each other through thick and thin, supported each other as they have tackled life’s many challenges, and have experienced so much of what life has to offer.
Dorothy and Betty started coming to YWCA New Britain about 15 years ago for the Silver Sneakers program, one of the largest preventative exercise programs for older adults in the country. Now 90 and 91 years old (and still sharp as tacks), they come to the YWCA three times a week for the Young at Heart fitness class. Geared toward seniors, the class focuses on increasing balance, coordination, strength, and range of motion for the whole body while incorporating a variety of fitness equipment.
Studies have found that seniors who exercise can maintain or lose weight as metabolism naturally slows, build muscle mass, and burn more calories. Seniors who stay physically active and regularly exercise are able to prevent or delay many chronic diseases and disabilities. Exercising can help with arthritis, heart diseases, diabetes, and people with high blood pressure, balance problems, and difficulty walking. It also enhances mobility, flexibility, and balance which can reduce the risk of falls. There are mental benefits to exercise as we age as well. Exercise often improves your quality of sleep, boosts your mood and self-confidence, and helps prevent memory loss and cognitive decline.
Another benefit of the Young at Heart class for seniors here at the YWCA is the social aspect of the organization. Women are able to make new friends and keep an active social life. Staying engaged and socializing with others while aging is extremely important for health and wellbeing as it reduces feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Dorothy and Betty say their favorite part of the program is being with the other women and their instructor, Chris. When asked what keeps them coming back, Betty said “the nice people” and similarly Dorothy said, “the kind, personable people, and the good friends I’ve made.”
While the exercise programs are what originally brought them to the YWCA, Dorothy and Betty have become more involved over the years. They are both currently active participants in an intergenerational program that brings together preschool students with seniors. They do activities such as gardening, making healthy snacks, and arts and crafts. After their time with the preschool students, staff take the seniors out to lunch as a way to strengthen their sense of community and social ties.
While Dorothy and Betty may no longer be roommates who share the same daily routine or life experiences, they still share a bond that they describe as that of sisters, and have a shared energy that connects them. As they have far surpassed the seven-year mark, I think it’s safe to say they are life-long friends.
YWCA New Britain is proud of the role it has played in Dorothy and Betty’s journey, and we look forward to being a meaningful part of the lives of so many more women and children in our community.