IF YOU GO
What:
Encore classes

Where:
Aztec Senior Community Center, 101 S. Park Ave., and other locations

Cost:
Residents 65 and older: $17.75 for first six credit hours. Residents under 65: $53.75 per class.

More Info:
Call 505-566-3121 or visit www.sanjuancollege.edu/encore.

AZTEC — Commissioners this week approved a new agreement for San Juan College classes to continue at the Aztec Senior Community Center.

The free classes are part of the college's Encore program, which offers about 70 courses per semester at its main campus and various locations around San Juan County.

The classes are geared toward adults 50 years and older, though any student who is at least 18 can enroll. The focus on a number of topics, including exercise, cooking, writing, photography, archeology, film, psychology and foreign language.

Encore classes have been held at Aztec's senior center since 2007, but now the city and the college have made the course offerings official with the agreement, said Liesl Dees, director of the college's Community Learning Center.

About 25 percent of Encore classes take place off the college campus. They are held at the Aztec and Bloomfield senior centers and Sycamore Park Community Center and Bonnie Dallas Senior Center in Farmington.

"To me, what's important are the partnerships we have with the number of centers where our classes are held," Dees said. "We like to offer classes to seniors around the county, and this is a win-win for them because we're bringing everything from fitness to local history classes right where they are already."

The Aztec senior center just finished a local history course, "100 Years with a Slow Start," led by instructor Marilu Waybourn, and the center is currently offering a fitness class, "Senior Strength and Stretch," which instructor Kelly Hegarty is teaching.

"I work with primarily students who are at the center already, though I see some younger folks, too," Hegarty said. "My class helps those who want to pick up their mobility and health, but the nice thing is that they also enjoy the social aspect."

The city provides transportation to and from the senior center.

"Many of the seniors don't drive, so we come to them, right before lunch," Hegarty said. "There's a huge value there. I have had students tell me that they have seen marked improvement in their overall health and endurance and really appreciate the class. It's good them and for me."

Hegarty's hour-long class gets her students plenty of light cardio and flexibility training, a great deal of it while sitting in chairs.

Her students also get out-of-chair work for strength and balance and stretching postures, using handheld weights and resistance bands. Hegarty also deploys steady doses of Neil Diamond, early Fleetwood Mac and swing music from her boombox to keep the limbs in motion.

The current class has 27 fitness students the usual limit is 25 and it began March 18 and will run through May 10.

But Hegarty says that the class is so in demand that as soon as one ends, another starts up the following Monday.

"That's the nice part," she said. "There's continuity, so our students can continue to make progress, keep up with people they've gotten to know."

Gail Williams, 69, is taking two Encore courses this spring: Hegarty's fitness class and an Anasazi archeology class at the college's main campus.

Williams, who works part-time as an assistant at the college's east campus in Aztec, has taken Encore classes for about 15 years and likes the varied courses and course locations.

"You keep your brain active, and, in the case of exercise, you're doing the same for your body," she said. "I sit at a desk for long periods of time, so it's a perfect fit.

Williams also likes the affordability of Encore courses and the quality of the instructors. Plus, she finds there's no better way to deepen her knowledge of the area.

"If you remain curious, you never get old," she said.

James Fenton can be reached at jfenton@daily-times.com; 505-564-4621. Follow him on Twitter @FentonDT