Grad focused on wellness for the modern senior
Over the last decade, research has been done on the loss of muscle mass that often occurs with advanced age and immobility — a condition known as sarcopenia, a major cause of functional decline in older adults.
One study suggested that after the age of 50, a person can experience a 15 per cent loss in strength every subsequent decade. Targeted exercise can, however, mitigate the decline.
When Ali Le Pierrès, MA 17, saw what she considered to be a lack of services to address the fitness needs of seniors, she was inspired and set out to create a more approachable and inclusive facility. Jimmies, her Town of Mount Royal fitness centre, was launched in January with the over-50 demographic in mind.
Concordia connects the dots
After she graduated from McGill with a kinesiology degree, Le Pierrès wasn’t sure what career path to take. She decided to further her education at Concordia, where she completed a master’s in educational technology.
A course Le Pierrès took with Saul Carliner changed everything.
“His class was so valuable,” she says. “He made a point to connect what we were learning to potential careers.”
Carliner asked Le Pierrès to reflect on where she wanted to be in five to ten years.
“I wanted to open up a gym, but at the time it was so abstract.”
After two years of hard work and perseverance — during which time she also completed an online entrepreneurial course offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) — Le Pierrès unveiled her concept to the world. She’s been delighted by the reaction Jimmies has elicited thus far.
“People have really responded to our physical training methods, and the emotionally safe environment and sense of community that we offer.”
‘Getting people to where they need to be’
At Jimmies, clients can sign up for semi-private sessions or group classes focused on strength and conditioning, mobility and stretching.
“What we’re offering, essentially, is an improved quality of life,” says Le Pierrès. “It’s not just that we’re catering to an older population — we are — but it’s also about having an amazing training method and actually getting people to where they need to be.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Montreal in early March, Le Pierrès and her team had to adapt quickly to the challenges posed by the virus and the measures taken to curb its spread.
“We were in line with our projections and doing well for a startup,” she says. “April is when the snowbirds are supposed to come back, which would have been great for us. But then the pandemic threw it off. For a new business, that kind of setback is super devastating.”
After the lockdown, Jimmies pivoted to virtual classes for clients on Instagram and posted video workouts to YouTube. For clients interested in a more personalized or targeted experience, Le Pierrès also offered 45-minute private and semi-private virtual sessions as well as specialized fitness classes on Zoom.
Now that gyms have been allowed to reopen, Jimmies is back.
"We’ve been shocked and delighted by the response to the post-quarantine opening,” says Le Pierrès. “We were expecting the worst, seeing that a lot of our clients are at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19. But the majority of them have returned and we’ve even been able to grow our client base. People tell us they feel safe when they see how clean the facility is and how few people are in the space at once”