Meet Maria: 92-year-old finds wellness and renewal at IEHP Community Resource Center

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Maria enjoying a Zumba class, one of many free resources available at the IEHP's San Bernardino Community Resource Center.

With her children grown and raising families of their own, then losing her beloved husband in 2014, Maria found herself experiencing depression and longing for a purpose in life. Her home was missing the family bustle, boundless energy and joyful sounds from years past.

“I would cry and cry there,” said Maria, 92, in Spanish about her modest, but empty, longtime San Bernardino home.

As if an answer to her prayers, Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP) opened their San Bernardino Community Resource Center in 2015 — just steps away from Maria’s too-quiet space.

“Thank God they put this center here,” expressed Maria. “I said to myself, ‘Oh, they couldn’t have put it in a better location. I’ve got to go, I can go walking, I don’t need someone to take me.’ It was practically at my front door.”

IEHP’S WHY

So, every day for the last seven years, Maria puts on her workout attire – complete with a spiffy pair of Skechers sneakers – and takes the short stroll from her house to the Community Resource Center, where she’s become a “crowd favorite” of sorts.

“Maria is definitely a beautiful example of IEHP’s core value of placing our members at the center of our universe,” said Cesar Armendariz, IEHP’s senior director of community health.

Fully embracing the center’s wide-ranging offerings – all free of charge to anyone in the Inland Empire – Maria has taken a variety of fitness classes including Zumba®, aerobic boxing, Latin dance and yoga. She’s also spent time in health education classes, learning about asthma, diabetes and nutrition.

The staff at IEHP’s San Bernardino Community Resource Center look to Maria as their inspiration and motivation of their “why.” “She fully embodies the reason we provide these services,” said Armendariz. “Knowing we provided connection and heartfelt space for Maria to enjoy her golden years, instead of suffering through them alone in a spiral of isolation, fuels our own purpose. This is what healing and inspiring the human spirit looks like!”

As an added bonus, Maria brings smiles to everyone she encounters, always engaging with IEHP team members and fellow community residents.

“Eventually, she was very involved with whoever walked through the door,” said IEHP San Bernardino Community Resource Center Team Member Marjorie Chavez. “It’s been amazing to see how everyone welcomes Maria and how she embraces everyone who walks through the center.”

PLACE & PURPOSE

To watch Maria stepping, turning and moving to the spicy sounds of the latest Zumba® routine – never missing a beat – you’d never know she’s 92.

To witness Maria’s current-day, happy interactions with other people at the center, you’d also never know about the sadness that once filled her heart.

For Maria, the emptiness she felt before IEHP entered her life is gone – and so are the tears.

She now knows IEHP’s San Bernardino Community Resource Center is the place and the purpose she craved all along.

“My whole life has changed here. I feel renewed,” said Maria, then adding an encouraging invitation to other San Bernardino residents. “Come to the center, because there’s help here for everyone – for our bodies and our minds.”

To learn more about IEHP’s three Community Resource Centers, visit iehp.org. To see a video about Maria’s special journey with the San Bernardino Community Resource Center, click here.