HUNTERSVILLE — Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics serves as more than just a fitness center for the purpose of exercising and staying in shape.

HFFA focuses on bettering the everyday lives of all people, regardless of age and physical capabilities. 

The aquatic center includes a program specifically designed for seniors-SOULS  (Seniors, Older, United and Living Stronger).

“The fact we have a senior program makes us unique because we attract different types of people,” said Joanna Thompson, SOULS organizer at HFFA. “We are a family-friendly facility with so many programs to offer. Everyone can benefit.”

SOULS began five years ago when a member was interested in getting a group of seniors together to stay active and get more involved in the community.

The program of 50 participants meets every third Wednesday of the month from September to May. SOULS is not limited to members of the aquatic center anyone can join SOULS and bring their friends.

In May, SOULS won a senior award from the Centralina Council of Governments for the good works of local governments for displaying regional excellence in improving the quality of life.

Susan Goins, a 64-year-old active HFFA member of six years, joined SOULS a year and a half ago after she ended up on disability.

“The SOULS award recognizes contributions HFFA makes to the older generations,” Goins said. “SOULS offers learning opportunities and socialization, and it’s just a nice way to bring people together.”

Seniors of SOULS attend workshops and learn about a wide range of topics from different guest speakers from around the area.

In the past, Home Carolina talked to the seniors about fall prevention, a chef from Novant Health gave a food demonstration, Fleet Feet owner Kristin Harris presented a lecture on proper shoes and a local attorney spoke about estate planning.

The seniors also take several fitness classes that improve health, such as aqua zumba, chair yoga, spin bikes, battle ropes and water aerobics all to increase strength, balance and flexibility.

“SOULS has helped me live with my illness because I couldn’t exercise on land,” Goins said. “Previous gyms I attended didn’t have water exercises. Because of HFFA, I can exercise from swimming and get my exercise through resistance in water.”

HFFA trainer Derek Gibson works with seniors, taking them through equipment orientations. HFFA trainer Chantel Bilodeau teaches the senior aerobics classes.

Goins appreciates the efforts of HFFA to accommodate others in the community.

“HFFA first included a regular dance zumba class,” she said. “Now, they have a water zumba class for people with bad knees and joints or anybody older and younger.”

Thompson’s interest in SOULS sparked from her belief of keeping people busy. She says SOULS gets seniors to not only exercise but also build relationships.

“SOULS helps local businesses get their name out there and educates seniors on surrounding issues,” she said.

She suspects the SOULS program will continue to grow and increase membership.

“SOULS brings awareness to Huntersville businesses and encourages older people to help their well-being socially, physically and mentally,” Thompson said. “We want them to feel like SOULS is a second home.”