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College is a significant learning experience for most students. But for Jake Kuthe, new fitness specialist at Friendship Village, it was a time of discovering two of his life’s passions: physical fitness and working with seniors.
At the time he was earning his bachelor’s degree in exercise science at Northern Illinois University, the full-time student was also a firefighter and emergency medical technician. “I loved the physical aspect of being a firefighter and EMT; it gave me exposure to the medical field and helped me realize I wanted to pursue an education in fitness,” said Kuthe.
The opportunity to work with seniors also presented itself in college, when Kuthe had a fitness training job in a senior living community in the DeKalb area. “I have worked with every population, but for me, it’s easier to relate to seniors,” said the 28-year-old, who joined the Friendship Village team in early March. “The relationships I’ve made with older adults is the most rewarding part of my job.”
Part of his job is encouraging them to become, and stay, physically active. “Coming to the fitness center can be intimidating, but I make sure to explain all the different classes and levels and let residents know that there is something for everyone, and we’re always here to help and answer any questions.”
Forever Fit Plus is Friendship Village’s most advanced class, focusing on standing aerobic and strength movements with a rotation of 20 different exercise stations. “This class is a combination of all our classes and really pushes our residents,” said Kuthe. “It’s impressive to see how mobile and strong many of them are.”
Forever Fit and Sit and Fit meet the needs of intermediate and beginning participants, respectively, while Better Balance I and II accommodate residents’ varying abilities as well. Residents have a splash in the pool too, with classes like Aqua Express, Water Walking and Joyful Joints. “If residents learned something and had fun doing it, then I did my job.”
Across the nearly 160 fitness offerings at Friendship Village that Kuthe instructs on a rotating basis with fellow fitness specialists Crista Adams and Julie Hubbard, he is guided by one principal philosophy: functional exercise. “I always try to make residents better at something they do throughout the day; each movement has a purpose,” he said, citing a “Healthy Hands” class that focuses on dexterity.
A lifelong sports enthusiast, Kuthe began working out with his father’s fitness equipment as a young teen. In school, he played football and hockey and took on the daunting and courageous work of a firefighter/EMT out of high school. After college, Kuthe found work in a private strength and conditioning studio in Milwaukee, where was employed until a year ago when his girlfriend of seven years got a job in Chicago, and he went with her.
Today, he lives five minutes from Friendship Village, which affords him more time to spend with friends and family and pursue his hobby of reading non-fiction. “I like to learn things and further my education on my own,” said the man who clearly enjoys teaching, too.