May 13, 2002
Gone with the wind, twice a month
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
The Northshore Golden Flyers will be gone with the wind twice a month throughout the summer. The group of seniors plans to sail their bright, multi-hued kites among the clouds at nearby localities beginning May 21st. On that Tuesday afternoon, they'll trek to Magnusson Park and launch their kites in a flurry of motion and color. Malka Fricks, coordinator for the Golden Flyers, explains that the type of kites seniors choose to fly can be easy or complex depending on the individual's desire and skill. "They fly everything from the most simple diamond-shaped kite that some of them made, all the way up to dual-line sport kites," she says, pointing out that kite flying is well suited for seniors and offers quite a few benefits in addition to physical activity. "It's nostalgic," she says. "For the men particularly. It's very reminiscent of an earlier time in their lives when they regularly flew kites." She says that flying kites is ideal for seniors who have physical challenges because it's effortless and can be done from a wheelchair or a walker. Also, it's a fun activity. "It's something the seniors can do with their grandchildren right now," says Fricks. And there's much more. "Fresh air into your lungs," emphasizes Fricks, then thinks of the current wet weather and adds, "Out in the sunshine, hopefully." Kite flying also opens up opportunities to make new friends. Says Fricks, "It has a huge potential social component." In past times together, the group has had enjoyed picnics and many good times talking and laughing as kites dart and flit up above.
In addition to socializing, kite flying offers the chance to express individual styles. Some of the seniors make adaptations to fit their needs. One member brings a lawn chair and controls his kite while sitting down and resting. Another uses his fishing pole to reel his kite out on fishing line. "He's very innovative," Fricks remarks. "And creative."
She goes on to say that the sight of seniors flying kites can be attention getting. Says Fricks, "We always draw a group of onlookers. People are curious who we are and where we're from." The reactions, she says, are always positive with pleasantly amused expressions. The usual comment is, 'Gee, that looks like fun.'
Fricks, who is also a Woodinville Parks Commissioner, will vouch that kite flying is fun. She's gets a kick out of flying her multi-colored kid's kite, a Mylar octopus with eight tails. "It's very easy to fly, very light in weight and can fly with virtually no wind," she says, then quips, "It makes me look good."
She'll stick with her kid's kite, but many of the Golden Flyers want to go as far as they can in complexity. Enter Sylvia Bernauer, membership director for the Washington Kitefliers Association, who serves as flying coach and donates her time in helping the seniors to get their kites up in the air. "Sylvia teaches them how to fly, tie knots, assemble and disassemble. She's wonderful at teaching them," says Fricks. Not only does Bernauer teach the ins and outs of kite flying, she also discusses other amazing facets of the kite world.
The Golden Flyer's held a kick-off meeting at the Northshore Senior Center (NSC) April 29 to usher in their third year together. Bernauer brought in various types of kites to show the members and also talked about kite history, festivals and accessories. In addition, tables in the room displayed festival t-shirts and lapel pins, plus lots of brochures and magazines about the sport. Bernauer recited the ten commandments of kite flying...thou shalt not fly thy kite where it can be entangled with other people's lines. For fun, she flew a tiny pink kite, about three inches in length with silver tails, right there inside the meeting room.
The idea of kite flying as an activity for Northshore seniors initially developed in Seaside, Oregon, at a health and wellness seminar that Fricks attended. While there, Fricks was charged with formulating an activity to maintain good health as part of a team effort. Fricks recalls suggesting to the others, "Let's do something atypical and be a kite flying team."
She brought that idea back home and made arrangements with NSC Director Marianne LoGerfo to form a kite-flying group for Northshore seniors.
As the group formed, Fricks began to search for someone with kite knowledge and skills, someone who would talk to the group and offer encouragement. She called a commercial kite shop and was referred to Bernauer. Once Fricks and Bernauer met, the two discovered they were kindred spirits who shared a passion for kites.
There was a time when Bernauer didn't know anything about kites.
Then while on a family vacation in Oregon, she stumbled upon a kite festival in Lincoln City. Kites in every design and color danced in the sea breezes. "It was like Disneyland in the air. We were just blown away," she says of the spectacle and remembers that from then on she was hooked. Today, she participates in event competitions and flies all kinds of kites, including her current favorite Asian fighter kites.
The Northshore Golden Flyers welcomes other seniors to join them. Owning a kite is not necessary as Fricks and Bernauer have kites available for a one-day loan.
Also, no up-front membership fees required. "Totally free," says Fricks. And if these aren't reasons enough to give kite flying a try, seniors might want to consider the 'cool' factor. "Little kids love watching grandmas and grandpas flying kites," says Fricks. "They think that's so cool."
This year the 'cool' Golden Flyers will meet May 21 and 28 at Magnusson Park. Other meeting dates: June 11 and 25, July 16 and 30, August 6 and 27.
Flying times 1-2:30 pm with future locales to be determined by consensus of the group. If weather is marginal on a flying day, contact the NSC at (425) 487-2441 after 11 a.m. for further instructions.
To learn more about the Golden Flyers, contact Malka Fricks at (425) 821-1772.