We all know the importance and benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Among them are more energy and focus, decreased fat and stronger muscles, less illness, and a better night’s sleep.
It is never too early for children to learn the lessons of good nutrition combined with sensible physical activity. A new West Hartford business is aimed at doing just that.
Generation Y, a healthy lifestyle club and gym for kids, tweens, and teens, is holding its grand opening this Sunday on LaSalle Road. Owner Erika Johns, a real estate agent who has owned her own real estate company for the past three years, was inspired to create Generation Y by her eight–year-old daughter, Neveah.
“She’s grown out of the My Gym kind of place that is more geared towards babies and kids through six years old, and at the same time there are not a lot of places for her and her friends to hang out and socialize. That’s how I came up with the concept.”
With an emphasis on fitness and nutrition classes, Generation Y is much more than a scaled-down version of an adult gym. Johns refers to it as a “lifestyle club” because in addition to age-appropriate gym equipment, it will offer daily, hourly classes on many of the hot topics that children are dealing with these days like dating, peer pressure, and school-related stress.
Johns remarks how today’s young are “more stressed than ever with the expectations that are placed on them,” so she will be teaching meditation classes to help them cope. Etiquette classes will focus on simple tasks – such as setting a proper dinner table – that Johns says our increasingly frenzied home-lives don’t allow parents the time to demonstrate.
Socializing with peers is an important part of growing up, and Generation Y wants to be a destination where children can come to interact with their friends as they take part in all the club has to offer. Johns wants Generation Y to be “a place for play dates,” noting, “my daughter wants to have play dates and the parents don’t seem to have time anymore or they don’t want to do it. So I want this to be somewhere they know they can see their friends after school and get a time to talk and socialize.”
To ensure more face-to-face communication, Johns says that all technological devices – cell phones, iPods – must be checked at the front desk.
On weekends, parents can schedule their children for an evening of “clubbing” at the “Movie and Dinner,” offered from 6 p.m. to midnight on both evenings every week. Generation Y will serve the kids giant Subway grinders and show them an age-appropriate movie while Mom and Dad can enjoy an evening to themselves.
But Johns’ primary goal for the focus of her business is optimal health for our children. Her business is named after “Generation Y” – the label given to those with birthdates ranging from 1983 through 2003 and the generation that follows Generation X – which is said to have the highest obesity rates in history.
The childhood obesity statistics are, indeed, unsettling: childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years with the percentage of children six to eleven years old considered obese increasing from 7 percent in 1980 to 20 percent in 2008.
Johns, who was raised in Texas and came east to attend Loomis Chaffee School, remembers how fitness was never emphasized at home. “My mom wasn’t athletic so I never learned how important fitness is. In school, I did always play varsity sports – soccer, softball and volleyball. But after college, and you stop becoming involved in sports day to day, your body changes and everything catches up with you.”
Johns says that her daughter, a student, is going to learn about the importance of fitness early on. “We are teaching her now that it is important to learn to ride a bike, or learn how to love to take a walk every day or run, because it will help you in the long run.”
Nutrition plays a key role in fitness but Johns does not want parents to think that her classes will be emphasizing counting calories. Instead, they will approach eating as a series of smart choices, providing the children with examples of what is and is not a healthy option in easy-to-understand, common sense approaches.
“Common sense” is a term that Johns uses often, referring to the overall lack of it she sees in young children. She hopes that her classes will help to instill a little bit more of it in them to help them with their life skills in years to come.
The 4,500 square foot facility has five cheerful rooms on two levels. Space can be rented out for birthday parties, corporate events or field trips. Generation Y will be open seven days a week with extended hours during school holidays and summer. For each child who registers, a sibling discount of 50 percent will be offered. Johns notes that this will allow “a family of four to get out and have fun while Mom and Dad might have time away from the kids – all for a reasonable price.”
Sunday’s grand opening will include a character artist, cut-outs for kids to pose behind, raffles, and balloons. West Hartford female boxer Addy Irizarry, who Johns says has “gone through a lot of hard times,” will be on hand to motivate young people to become athletes and follow any dreams that they might have.