Inspirational 86 year old on her feet hours after op

Strength and balance classes have earned their weight in gold for 86 year old Shirley Van Grinsven from Wainoni. 

Not even a major operation due to cancer could keep Shirley in bed, who was on her feet hours later. 

Shirley has been going to strength and balance classes at Burwood for five or six years and credits this as contributing to her remarkable post-op recovery. 

When Shirley was diagnosed with cancer and needed a hysterectomy just before the national Covid-19 lockdown, her instructor, Krissy Christensen motivated her to exercise at home, go for small walks and practice deep breathing. 

“If I hadn’t done all the exercising and walking, I wouldn’t have recovered as well as I have. I told the hospital staff about my classes and my instructor and how it was all her doing. I will be forever grateful,” says Shirley. 

“All the doctors and nurses were so surprised how well I came through the surgery. My recovery was so good that I was back in the ward by 1pm and out of bed walking down the corridor by 4.30pm, feeling very proud of myself.”

“When the hospital staff saw me coming, they shook their heads in amazement, gave me the thumbs up and said what a legend.” 

“The surgeon told me they were using my remarkable story of recovery to other patients younger than me, who were anxious about surgery.”

“I also owe a lot to my fellow class mates who all supported me and sent me their best wishes. Not only do we exercise, we have a cuppa, socialise and connect with others.”

Since the quakes, which caused significant damage to buildings and land in Wainoni many of the group members have moved across town, but it doesn’t stop them and now they travel across to Burwood for the classes.

“The classes are gentle and you can take it at your own pace. We have a lot of laughs and reminisce while we move to the music we grew up with.”

There are nearly 200 approved strength and balance classes running weekly within the Canterbury DHB region. These classes are part of the Live Stronger for Longer Project, which supports older adults to live independent and injury free, in their own homes, by reducing their risk of falling. 

Sport Canterbury Community Strength and Balance Project Leader Rebecca Logan says this is a collective, whole system approach to falls prevention. It encompasses in home support, pharmacy and community strength and balance classes.

“One of the goals of the Live Stronger for Longer project is to ensure that every person in New Zealand, aged 65 years and over, can attend a strength and balance class within their community,” says Rebecca.

Classes can be found through an interactive map on the Live Stronger for Longer webpage- livestronger.org.nz/home/find-class/find-a-class-near-you or by contacting Sport Canterbury via email sport@sportcanterbury.org.nz or phone (03) 373 5060.

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