Caregiving Couple Makes Time for Exercise Together

By Katrina Dupins


Tom and Mary Banks walk the overpass that leads to the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging.

The Banks lived in North Carolina for many years and raised their children there. They came to Little Rock to take care of Pairett after Pairett’s younger daughter passed away.

“One thing about it,” Pairett said. “I’ve got a daughter that really takes care of me. And that guy over there [Tom Banks} takes care of all of us.”

Pairett has enjoyed her life. She was a pianist for a singing group and spent 33 years working in a grocery store. She was gardening and mowing her lawn well into her 80s.

“I’ve had a really good life,” Pairett said. “I enjoyed spending time with my grandkids.”

Virginia Lee Pairett

Virginia Lee Pairett

Laura Spradley is the outreach coordinator for the UAMS Arkansas Geriatric Education Collaborative (AGEC). One in four adults in Arkansas care for a loved one, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For many of them, the time commitment exceeds 20 hours a week.

“Caregiving can be stressful and time consuming, but it is also rewarding. The people who do it, do it from their hearts,” Spradley said. “Research shows that exercising can help with the stress that comes with caregiving.”

Quality time together has long been a part of the Banks’ routine. The couple makes sure they set aside three afternoons a week to run errands and exercise.

“Our date night is in the middle of the afternoon,” Tom Banks said. “We usually take one hour to run errands. Then the second hour we have dinner together.”

They also go to the Ottenheimer Fitness Center inside the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. Tom Banks says they found out about it through Silver Sneakers, a health and fitness program designed for adults older than 65.

“It was a perfect fit. We get in aerobic and strength training,” he said.


Quality time together has long been a part of the Banks’ routine

Through the grant, AGEC has provided the Ottenheimer Fitness Center with educational training to teach classes for seniors including Tai Chi, A Matter of Balance, Ageless Grace and Super Noggin.

“Our goals here are to help people have a better quality of life,” said fitness specialist Sheery Woods, “It’s all about community. Everyone is concerned about each other.”

The Banks stress the importance of knowing your own temperament and not neglecting caring for yourself as a full-time caregiver.

“Figure out what your need is and make sure it is being met,” she said. “We are a team. This is our seventh year as caregivers. We felt it was something we were led to do.”