Meg Pickard’s passion for recreation stems from her belief that any form of physical activity is beneficial to one’s well-being.
“I encourage all of you to get out and get active and enjoy a healthy, active life,” said Pickard, Chautauqua Institution’s director of recreation. “I always say the best exercise is the one you enjoy, the one that you stick with.”
Pickard, accompanied by Vice President, Treasurer and Chief Operating Officer Sebby Baggiano, shared details on the Institution’s recreation department and the importance of living an active life at the Institution Leadership Porch Discussion Wednesday morning at the Hultquist Center.
One of Pickard’s main focuses is educating others about ways to prevent fall-related injuries among the elderly. That, she said, came about after her mother passed away on Thanksgiving Day in 2010 due to injuries from falling.
“My son and I had gotten up early to prepare for an extended family Thanksgiving dinner; I had never cooked a turkey in my life,” she said. “At 7 a.m., the phone rang.”
A few months after her mother’s death, Pickard was asked by the YMCA of the USA to help educate others about falls, and she accepted. She trained at the Oregon Research Institute and traveled throughout the country, teaching YMCA personnel so that they could impart knowledge about falls among older adults to the public.
About one-fourth of Americans aged 65 and older fall each year, and falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older adults, according to the National Council on Aging. In her work, Pickard also compiled research and found that all forms of physical activity contribute to reduced occurrence of falls.
“Here at Chautauqua, we have a wide variety of physical activities available to you to engage in,” Pickard said. “We are so fortunate to have this bikeable, walkable community.”
In addition to walking and biking, she listed the Institution’s other many forms of recreation: sailing, softball, tennis, golf, swimming and so on. The Institution is also trying to incorporate new activities, such as paddle boarding, co-ed kickball, footgolf and pickleball, she said.
Baggiano noted that recreation is the third largest revenue source for the Institution as well.
“It’s a big part of the mix here at Chautauqua,” he said.
Another focus of recreation at the Institution: outreach to the greater Chautauqua region. For example, the Chautauqua Golf Club has a long history of supporting the Special Olympics, the Coyle Tennis Courts are utilized by the Panama School District and each spring, Sharpe Field is used by the Northern Chautauqua County Girls Babe Ruth softball team, Pickard said.
In addition, she said, the Turner Community Center is open year-round for residents in the area to use.
All in all, though, Pickard believes falls among older adults are preventable. People just have to take action and exercise, she said, and the Institution provides those opportunities.
“We have an amazing staff of passionate and enthusiastic individuals who provide expert guidance and encouragement,” Pickard said.