Harry Caine lives, breathes, walks and spreads the wellness message, both in his Tsawwassen neighbourhood and across North America. To say he believes in health and wellness is an understatement. As a pharmacist, Harry, now retired, spent 25 years convincing seniors that the more they exercised, the less medication they would need. He became affectionately known as the “anti-drug pharmacist.”
Harry practises what he preaches. His fitness routine includes a gym workout, which involves stretching for 30 minutes, the treadmill for 30 minutes and lifting weights for another 30 minutes. He played racquetball three times a week, later switching to tennis. His health regimen is even more impressive considering Harry, now in his 70s, once fell out of a Kelowna cherry tree and broke his back. He was told he’d be in a wheelchair in 20 years due to the injury - that was 35 years ago.
While visiting China a few years ago, Harry was deeply affected by the acres and acres of park, where hundreds of Chinese seniors performed tai chi outdoors.
“I wondered if you could get an outdoor playground with equipment to get more seniors [in Canada] to get outside,” he says.
Returning to his Tsawwassen home, Harry began an extensive campaign of research and action on his dream of seniors’ outdoor fitness. He asked a friend, who teaches kinesiology at Langley’s Trinity Western University, whether they could design equipment to withstand B.C.'s rain and provide exercise for seniors. The reply: “Yes, it could be done.” With help from Trinity Western students, a questionnaire was conducted asking seniors about their interests. The information gathered was used to create a design.
With assistance from a playground manufacturer, the Tsawwassen-Boundary Bay Lions Club, Delta’s mayor and Delta Parks & Recreation department, Harry's dream became a reality. The Lions Wellness Park is located in Tsawwassen’s Winskill Park surrounded by many seniors’ apartment buildings near KinVillage Retirement complex. The Lions Club and the provincial government aided fundraising. The country’s first Seniors’ Wellness Park has been re-created in 18 other B.C. locations, and even as far away as Texas.
“The bottom line is it’s so nice to see these places get used,” says Harry. “It’s amazing, and it does not come easy.”
The Wellness Park includes unique fitness equipment specialized to the needs of mature adults but, interestingly, the outdoor adult playground has turned into a multi-use fitness park with grandparents exercising with their grandkids.
The facility features chipped rubber tires providing soft foot landings instead of hard gravel, making it almost impossible to get hurt from a fall. Equipment is geared to exercise specific body areas in a safe manner, including focus on balance and stretching exercises. Marked walking trails let users know the distance they have covered. Participants also benefit from movement in fresh air and sunshine.
But Harry and the Lions were not finished. The Tsawwassen wellness organizers added raised garden beds with a watering system and a garden club. Colourful, fragrant sweet peas and beans, climbing clematis, a pumpkin patch and more gardening treats add to the ambience.
“I wanted to get people out of their apartments talking to each other,” says Harry. “The socialization factor with this garden club is phenomenal. I love it. People are coming down, interacting and talking to each other in the garden.”
“You can’t be standing in a line-up with me and not have me talk to you,” says Harry with a playful twinkle in his eye. “A lot of people are generally shy and reserved, I may be more outgoing, but if you get people going, you can meet so many fascinating people. Just let yourself be open.”
Harry also volunteers at the Vancouver International Airport every Wednesday at 5 a.m. as a “Green Coat” greeter welcoming passengers and answering questions. “You get to meet the nicest people at this job,” he says. “I really enjoy helping, teasing and having fun with passengers.”
Harry believes that four factors determine healthy aging and guide his own life and community work: psychological, physical, social and nostalgia.
“Life is fun,” he says. “Life is enjoyable. If you do only one thing to keep healthy, walk. If you walk every day, you may not need other exercise.”
Not one to sit still very long, Harry and his fellow Lions members recently created an innovative, safe, interactive playground for children of all abilities, kids who may find traditional playgrounds challenging. This playground had its official opening this past Father’s Day to an enthusiastic crowd at the stunning oceanfront Tsawwassen Centennial Beach. Children bounced and played to their heart’s content.
In 2004 the Delta Chamber of Commerce awarded Harry with the Citizen of the Year award for “providing extraordinary service to the community and conducting his life with integrity.”
But this “citizen of the year” does not like to linger long on awards or accomplishments: he has more projects to plan and more trails to tread, while he spreads the wellness message with infectious energy and humour.
SEPTEMBER 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND
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