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Fruit Bats....Not Acting Their Age!!

It’s not often you attend a circus performance where many of the acrobats are aged 60 and over. We were privileged to see a performance by the Fruit Bats, who have moves such as ‘Bird on Feet’, ‘Plank’, ‘Counter Balance’ and ‘Group Pyramids’.

Who, What & Where?
‘The Fruit Bats is an older adults circus program:

Designed to provide an opportunity for older adults (40 years and over), in the North East Victoria and Albury area, to experience a range of basic circus activities in a supported environment.

Operates out of the home of The Flying Fruit Fly Circus in Hovell Street Albury.

Is run by very experienced and skilled circus trainers.

Activities: warm-up and cool down stretches, team balances, comedy, circus skills of low based tight wire, hula hoops, a range of juggling activities and others, plus circus performance!

Benefits include: increased flexibility, strength and balance as well as camaraderie. Individuals are encouraged to work at their own pace and to their own capacity.

Program Partners:
The Flying Fruit Fly Circus (established in 1979, the Flying Fruit Fly Circus has established itself as one of the world’s premier youth performing arts companies. Australia’s only full time circus training school, it comprises up to 80 school -age children (Grades 3 to 12) who are trained in their art by some of the world’s foremost exponents of circus.
Upper Hume Community Health Service – which is a non-government, not for profit organisation that provides a range of services through the social model of health.
VicHealth, which is an innovative health promotion agency that supports the creation of environments to improve the health of all Victorians’.

Background
The Fruit Bats were established in 2003 and people in their 40’s, to 80’s have been members. This is no gentle exercise class, and Laraine Catlow from the Upper Hume Community Health Service, says, ‘The Fruit Bats are the older cousins of the Flying Fruit Fly Circus’. Laraine says the Fruit Bats program is about achieving goals of balance, flexibility and strength and mental health.

People in the area were asked if they would be interested in a (Fruit Bats) Program and 100 people said ‘yes’. The rest is history, and Laraine says it has been a huge success, with many health benefits. Feedback from GP’s has been excellent, with some commenting that depression medication for some people has been reduced or thrown away!

Importantly, there are a number of men involved. Traditionally, there are not as many men participants in exercise. ‘This is really special’, says Laraine, who says she is constantly surprised at the mix of male and female ‘Fruit Bats’. ‘There is a great deal of trust and respect’ shown between Fruit Bat members.

Adele, who is over 75 years of age just loves being a Fruit Bat. ‘I like everything about it’, she says. ‘There is not one part of Fruit Bats that I do not like. There is a uniqueness about it, there is the magic of the circus with juggling, tight wire, wheeling and devil stick activities. There is always something new, it's exciting. It satisfies everyone. You leave with a big smile on your face.’

The group are very supportive of each other. The Fruit Bats work at their own level and there is no competition amongst the group. ‘We are so pleased with each other's achievements’, says Adele.

Thinking of becoming a Fruit Bat? You will need a medical release from your local GP. Most people join the Fruit Bats from being a member of a walking group or another exercise program, but Laraine says this is not necessary. ‘Some people come in and are unfit, overweight or very stiff, but our program helps every single part of the body’.

Ed’s note: This is a truly inspiring group who would have much better flexibility, strength and balance than many people half their age!

For further details: Contact Upper Hume Community Health Service at Beechworth on (03) 57 283 180 or at Wodonga on (02) 6022 88 88