Fitness and Friendship at the Livingwell Fitness Center

Jun 5, 2023


Valerie Armbruster, 76, of Jamestown, is unabashed about her love of sleeping in. Now that she’s retired, she prefers staying up late with a good book to being an early riser.

But there is one thing she says is worth waking up early for: two mornings a week, Valerie joins her friends at a Zumba Gold class. “I drag myself out of bed for that,” she says with a laugh.

Held at the LivingWell Fitness Center in Sonora, Zumba Gold is a low-impact version of the popular dance-based exercise class designed specifically for beginners and active older adults. While regular exercise is a motivation for Valerie – “I don’t want to be one of those people who can barely push their cart at WalMart” – the sense of community is just as much of a draw.

Valerie has been taking Zumba classes around the community with many of the same women for years, and from the same instructor, Suzanne Hennessy. They’ve gathered for Zumba the LivingWell Fitness Center for the last two years or so.

Sue Ellen Harwood, another regular class participant and Valerie’s longtime friend, adds that finding connection was especially important when she retired to Sonora several years ago. “When you move to a new community, you’re trying to get to know people, and Zumba is a great place to do that,” she says. “It’s a place where I can connect with people who have like values and interests.”

After Zumba is over, Valerie and Sue Ellen regularly visit Claudia’s Café with other Zumba classmates to recharge with coffee and healthy breakfast and lunch options, and connect over everything from at-home manicure tips to gardening and more.

“It’s hard to make friends when you get older, so it’s nice to be part of a community,” Valerie says. Early wake-up call and all.