Joan Nowaczynski is quick to tell you she’s a Capricorn and that she believes her deep winter birthday is responsible for many of her personality traits. For one, she’s loath to try new things alone. For another, she tends to retreat from the world when life gets difficult and she’s prone to winter depression.
It’s just one of the reasons that the Kroc Center is so important to her.
“You have to try new things when you get older,” Joan says. “You just have to.”
Joan’s found lots of new things to try at the Kroc Center. After spending years driving past the facility on Western Avenue, she summoned the courage to step through the doors in 2021 to try a sit-down yoga class. From there, she’s moved onto Healthy Aging Classes and Silver Sneakers workouts.
“Coming to Healthy Aging is like opening up a whole new world to aged people,” she says. “I wish I would have known about this sooner and I wish I would have acted on it.”
Before coming to the Kroc, Joan had never taken an exercise class and she’d never really been a part of a fitness center. She knew it was important to stay active, but she didn’t know where to begin. Her husband was an avid hunter and fisherman, but Joan needed something to be hers. She found it at the South Bend Kroc Center.
She ran into old friends from grade schools she attended 70 years ago and found members from churches where she’d attended weddings and funerals half-a-lifetime ago. She discovered hew hobbies and activities and she became a part of a spontaneous community.
“Once you start coming here, you get in with a group of people and become friends. You become a family.”
Joan remembers meeting a woman named Marge during her first sit-down yoga class. Later, Marge invited Joan to a tea at her home.
“It was the first time I’d ever been to a tea party,” Joan remembers.
Joan is positively evangelistic about her experience at the Kroc Center and wants every person in Michiana to know that this is the right place for them. She calls the facility a playground for South Bend and encourages her friends, neighbors, and peers to give it a shot.
“A lot of people who are older need someone to walk in with them,” she says. “But it doesn’t matter if you’re 65, 80, 100. This place is for you! A lot of old-timers are alone, but they don’t have to be.”
Joan especially enjoys the friendly Kroc Center staff and has a soft spot for Simon Meska.
“Simon is such a gentle, cool dude,” she says. “I feel his energy and his soul and his kindness and his quietness. He’s wonderful.”
She remembers when a group of Healthy Aging participants wanted to try to play pickleball but were intimidated to join the group of experienced players in the gym.
“Simon set up pickleball for us special in our own room so we could play and have fun and laugh,” she says. “When one person in our group didn’t show up, Simon played in her spot.”
Joan finds a sense of balance at the Kroc Center and notes that it’s a place where she feels cared for physically, mentally, and spiritually. She participated in the Daniel Plan in 2021 and looks forward to trying out workout machines and summoning the bravery to step into the pool. If there’s a new thing to try, Joan’s ready to try it and she hopes to encourage more people to join her in it.
“Sign up for Healthy Aging,” she speaks candidly to a couple on their way out of the Kroc Center. “It’s the best thing you’ll ever do.”
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Your donation helps people stay connected, even when connection is difficult.
Love Beyond Christmas
Your sustaining gift to The Salvation Army Kroc Center supports St. Joseph County families this season and beyond. So you can put a present under someone’s tree today and a roof over someone’s head tomorrow.