By Abbey Snow


Mesquite Senior Center – Jo Anne Smith’s Chair Class 

Jo Anne Smith is a group fitness instructor at the Mesquite Senior Center who started teaching the fitness ‘Chair Class’ about 11 years ago where Seniors can integrate various fitness activities sitting in or standing alongside a chair. 

About 13 years ago, the Chair Class was being offered at the Mesquite Senior Center managed by Senior Services Supervisor, Griseyda Belalcazar. Belalcazar asked if Smith would be interested in substituting for another instructor with the chair class.  

“I was hesitant at first, but she is a good negotiator,” Smith said. “I was hooked and loved it.  I immediately went and obtained all my required certifications.  From there on I became very involved with the chair class.”

At the time, Smith was going through some rough moments in life and the Chair Class became her motivation to keep moving forward. She was a snowbird from Northern Utah and loved the Chair Class that was being offered at the Senior Center that she started teaching a class in Salt Lake City, Utah. A year later, she made Mesquite her permanent home.  

“After Griseyda transferred to the Senior Center, she asked if I would be willing to teach the Chair Class at the Senior Center on a permanent basis,” Smith said. “I was ecstatic. I’ve been teaching ever since and I have enjoyed every moment. It’s been a blessing.”

Smith said the Chair Class is only offered at the Mesquite Senior Center. At the time the Chair Class started up, the center basically had been offering dine-in and homebound meals, as well as socialization events such as card and tile playing. There weren’t any fitness classes offered until Belacazar brought them to the center. Smith feels it has been the best addition that ever happened to the center.

“The focus for this program is to keep people active and moving,” Smith said.  “The Chair Class has a variety of many different classes combined to give you the most out of a fitness exercise program- a total body workout. It was designed to accommodate those with any type of disability, isolation, couch potato syndrome and those fitness goers 60 years and older. Modification is given to those students that have limited mobility, limitations, health issues and/or are just getting started.  Classe are versatile to meet all aspects of our students’ needs.  Most of my students are in their 70′, 80’s, and 90’s.  The social aspect is what makes this class very special. We are one big happy family and we take care of one another.”  

Smith said the classes are modified for those that need it and everyone works at their own fitness level. For example, if they are doing standing exercises and a student can’t stand, that’s okay. They will show students how to modify the exercises from their chair to help them follow along with the rest of the class. All fitness levels, or none are welcome. 

“What makes this class fun has many reasons,” Smith said. “Most of my students say it’s the social aspect, comradery, laughter, and meeting new people that keeps them coming. They love cognitive games, chair volleyball and other group activities that keep them active. They love the welcoming feeling they get when they enter the Mesquite Senior Center and it’s staff. Most of all, they love the parties we host throughout the year. We love to have an excuse to party and have fun.”

Students can attend the classes as they see fit. Whether they attend all or simply one class a week, Smith encourages them to do what they are physically able to do in order to keep themselves moving. Her classes are not meant to pressure anyone into coming.

Smith’s Chair Class is held at  11:00 am Monday through Thursday with the following schedule:  

Monday- Stretch and Total Body conditioning (Dyna bands/fitness balls)

Tuesday- Strength Training (hand weights)

Wednesday- Qi Gong, balance and breathing

Thursday- Group activities, Cognitive games, Chair Volleyball

The classes are $15 per month. Everyone who attends needs to fill out a registration form to obtain a required scan card (membership card) for the center. For more information about Chair Classes or other fitness programs contact Krissy Thornton, programs assistant, at 702-346-5290 ext. 4102.

Jo Anne Smith ( left, pink shirt) plays Chair Volleyball at the Mesquite Senior Center with students ( Photo Credit: Griseyda Belalcazar )