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My journey as an exercise to music instructor at the age of 59

My journey as an exercise to music instructor at the age of 59

Here we catch up with exercise instructor Christie Ward to find out why she decided to start a new career at the age of 59, how she is using her experience of being sight-impaired to encourage people with disabilities to move more, and the barriers she is trying to break through.

My name is Christie Ward from Dance-Ability. In 2019, at the mature age of 59, I decided to train for a new career as a Level 2 Exercise to Music Instructor as I have always enjoyed and liked keeping fit and active and I love dancing! 

I also was not having any luck finding paid work in my previous employment as a support worker in mental health due to disability and age discrimination. 

In 2005, aged 45, I was registered as sight impaired, which means (for me) I can see bodies, shapes, and colours and can see/hear if anyone needs my attention, but I struggle to see face recognition and small details or vehicles at a short distance. 

I qualified in December 2019, with EMDUK and then COVID happened!  

So I spent the time during Covid revising my course so I would be ready to start my new career.

I began working in November 2021 and I am now doing three classes a week working in the Bexhill area, East Sussex with/for age groups of 40 to 80 plus years for men and women.  

We work out to music from the 1960s, 70s, 80s and a little bit of 90s, with the ethos of only working to our ability and always listening to our bodies.  

Therefore I try to give alternative movements where possible so that the participants can make it easier or harder depending on their capabilities.

I would not be doing all this without the great support of Active Rother and Sport England/the Together Fund.  

Active Sussex: There are many barriers people face getting active and you have named quite a few of them – age, disability, gender, cost – what are you doing to help encourage people from all backgrounds to get active?

Christie: Since November 2020 and March 2021 I was able to offer ALL my classes at just £2 per person until the end of April 2024 as my funding from Sport England/Together Fund expired.  

I wanted to do this to help and encourage people from disadvantaged backgrounds, or/on low incomes, benefits, or low pensions to be able to try an ETM class, and I did try very hard to advertise and run it in areas such as Sidley and in/around Bexhill. 

Since my funding finished, all my classes are now £5 per person per class. 

This minimum charge rate (compared to similar classes in my area which are higher) just about covers room/venue hire and, depending upon attendance numbers of between 10-15 (sometimes lower re: holidays, time of year, personal commitments), enables me to earn a reasonable hourly rate after paying for venue hire.  

I would like to be able to offer a lower price, but I cannot without continued funding.

Active Sussex: If someone is thinking about joining the physical activity sector either as a volunteer or coach what advice would you give them?

Christie: Only do and train for it if you feel enthusiastic, passionate and really want to help people get or keep more fit and active (not just for the pay/money), and you are prepared to keep learning and studying.

For me, this line of work is a vocational type of job and can be very hard work as I have to practise my moves/routines every day to keep refreshed, and to remember, especially as I started doing this at the age of 60! 

Being an ETM Instructor is not just “doing a bit of dancing/exercise”.  I/you have to work at it so that you not only make the classes enjoyable, but also effective too.

Active Sussex: How does it make you feel when you see people joining in with your classes and perhaps even improving more than they ever imagined?

Christie: This give me a great ‘buzz’ and makes what I do so very worthwhile, sspecially when I notice weight loss, getting and felling fitter, which generally brings out more confidence in people and they then engage more with other people. 

I also love to hear.  “I really enjoyed that, as it does not feel like exercise”! I get these comments a lot. 

Being aware of my client age groups, I tend to use a combination of music from the 1960s, 70s, 80s and a little of 1990s to try and suit most music tastes, memories and for my music taste and eras, as I can only work out to music I enjoy too. 

I keep my moves/exercises simple and, I hope, fun and effective with a regular attendance of between 10-15 people per class, mostly women with some men, and I have roughly five clients who need to use a chair and have additional needs such as hearing loss and age relating problems. 

I also tried very hard to get local VIPs and blind people involved, due to my registered impaired vision, as I feel I do understand how to help keep fit and active. 

However, none seemed interested, despite my advertising via the two local sight loss charities in my area. 

I am also hoping to apply for some funding for next year to pay for venue hire costs (and perhaps me) to do some chair-based classes for 2025, as I want to try and make my classes more inclusive or exclusive in providing specialised classes to help people with additional needs/disabilities.  

Due to my personal experience, I know and understand how by doing and choosing the right type of physical or mental exercise you can help people to not only feel and be more physically fit, but also mentally fit to be able to cope with whatever life, problems etc can bring, and can also help with pain management!

If you would like to find out more about Christie’s classes email abilityaccess@hotmail.com or call 07942 493177.

An older lady wearing gymwear and standing in front of a banner that says Dance Ability
Christie Ward
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