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You Gotta Move - 91 Years Strong

by Glenda Davis about a year ago in advice
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Senior Exercise Is A Growing Movement

You Gotta Move - 91 Years Strong

Recently, I was talking to my ninety-one year old aunt, Will Ella, about health, exercise and COVID 19. Prior to the lockdown she was very active.

Sunday she had church, lunch with church members and afternoon gardening from a chair.

Monday was the day she took care of her personal business, ran errands and shopped.

Tuesday she did yoga and lunch with her classmates, usually a bag lunch.

Wednesday was choir practice, bible study and lunch at the church, which she would help prepare.

Thursday was water aerobic class.

Friday she would volunteer at the church doing various tasks from cleaning to watching children and driving other seniors to grocery shop.

Saturday was house cleaning, cooking and gardening from a chair.

At ninety-one, my Aunt Will Ella is very active, more so than her peers and in truth, she's more active than much younger retirees. She has high blood pressure, but otherwise she is very healthy. She is also extremely social and COVID 19 has put her at a disadvantage.

I asked her how she was doing in the lockdown and expected her to say she was lonely, missed being able to socialize the way she normally does at church. She told me she wasn’t lonely because just as I have been calling her more regularly, so have other family members and friends from church. While she misses the hugs and intimate contact, she is lucky enough to receive enough socializing through phone calls that she isn’t lonely. Matter of fact, oftentimes, her call waiting is blowing up.

Movement Is Important To Good Health

I thought that was great, but she sounded as if something was bothering her. I asked her what the problem was and she reminded me of a conversation we had years ago. Many years ago, after my mom had knee surgery she told me, “This machine was built for movement, you gotta move if you want to live.”

That conversation took place more than twenty years ago. I lost my mom who was much younger than Will Ella and stopped moving, five years ago, but Will Ella has outlived all her familial peers. Due to COVID 19 she was put in a situation where she wasn’t moving.

We talked for days trying to figure out how a ninety-one year old used to moving outside the home, could convert that movement to her home.

Because 96% of her outdoor activity has been cut off, we needed a way to get her walking. The family gifted her a Fitbit which gave her the opportunity to track how many steps she takes each day and gently reminds her to move. The initial numbers infuriated her, she barely took a thousand steps a day. She combatted that problem with walking around the house during commercials. At last count she was just over eight thousand steps each day, and excitedly trying for nine thousand.

She missed her yoga class but we were able to find her usable yoga classes on YouTube and teach her to use a FireStick to access it on television. She also found a Tai Chi class she seems to love, also on YouTube.

She said fancy movement isn’t necessary, so she does toe touches, pelvic tilts, arm and shoulder rotations on commercial breaks between walking and twice a week she dances for half an hour in fifteen minute intervals alone.

She spends more time in her garden now to get sunshine and weed from her chair, but she surprised me and said, “I never tried it before, but I have been meditating in my chair in the garden on days I have nothing to do in the yard. And know what, I like it.” She says her blood pressure is more under control and she has an appointment with her doctor to discuss her blood pressure medication.

Will Ella says she is more relaxed since she’s been meditating. She says she sleeps better also, and it energizes her for her day. I was so impressed with her new routine that I adopted much of it for myself and when I shared it with her, she surprised me.

No Matter Our Age We Can Find Healthy Ways To Move Our Bodies

“Our bodies are built for movement,” she said, “but we must also properly fuel our bodies as well.” While I love her cooking, I previously couldn’t tell you what she actually ate on a day to day basis before this conversation.

At ninety-one, she grew up during the depression era, poor and Black. Soul food were the staples of the day and not much has changed in her cooking. She says she never learned to cook for less than eight, so she continues to cook for eight. On any given day, you could stop by her house and have a meal of Greens, Green-beans with potatoes, Sweet potatoes, Macaroni and Cheese, cornbread and some type of meat, usually baked and if there was any type of bird cooked, you were lucky enough to get her old fashioned dressing.

As we began to discuss diet, I was intrigued that much off what she was saying, is the current mindset regarding nutrition. It’s what our family learned regarding food and she stuck to it.

For breakfast, she generally has fruit. She says the fruits are light enough to not weigh you down, but nutritious enough to provide the energy to start your day. I asked her about the traditional American breakfast and she said it was intended to be a treat, not eaten every day and cereal was a quick substitute for the traditional breakfast.

For lunch, she likes sandwiches with lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers and onions along with a cup of soup. She likes the sandwiches because it gives her a variety of vegetables along with meat and she loves bread. The soup is her filler and the warm soup helps her digestion.

For dinner she has a couple of slices of some type of meat or one piece of chicken or steak, at least two vegetables and a starch (rice, potatoes, macaroni). She says our body was not meant to consume large portions of meat, that meat was intended to be part of celebration or festival. Prosperity made it acceptable to have large portions of meat at every meal, but healthy eating requires a reduction of meat consumption. Aunt Will Ella skips meats most dinners and has a salad or greens or green beans with cornbread, but rarely does she eat meat everyday and never all three meals.

She doesn’t drink anymore, but occasionally she will have a drink. She stopped smoking fifty years ago. She drives herself nearly everywhere she goes and is still a good safe driver, although she prefers to drive during the day. She rarely uses a cane to walk. Her mind is as sharp as people half her age and she makes sure she uses a mask on the rare occassion she goes out. She’s energetic, social, funny, sweet and determined to move her body. She is generous and intent on being useful to others.

My Aunt Will Ella is my vision of who I would like to be at ninety-one, active, moving, socializing, independent and both able and willing to help others, because like her, I believe this machine was built to move.


Glenda Davis

The purpose of this blog will be to discuss race relations, learn history and hopefully help us all to be more patient, understanding, emphatic.

I am a 59 year old Black woman, a veteran Sargent of the United States Air Force and a retiree.

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