Oldies are Awesome - they open my mind!
Every 12 weeks we find a new cohort of oldies to exercise. It is part of our obligation to our local NHS. The NHS pay us to train a bunch of oldies with co-morbidities with the aim to improve their quality of life. We write up the evidence to support that exercise does indeed change lives.
That is, in layman terms, what we do. What it doesn't say is that the hormones my body produces as a result of the experience, fills me with happiness for days and if only it could be bottled, we would be wealthy beyond our wildest dreams!
So yes, I get paid to do a job, but this is truly our calling in life and we are honoured to work with these groups.
Today we met the new group. My team have spent months sourcing these attendees who are often referred to us by physios, GP's and community matrons. We build relationships on the phone with them to coerce them over the threshold of a fitness class and then day 1 arrives.
Force 10 gales hit over night, trees are down everywhere and there is plenty of debris. I stand at the door hoping that maybe one or two will be brave enough to venture out and then I see her. Estelle. Her force greater than any storm, all four foot nothing of her, her slight frame whipping down the hill behind her walking aid, dressed in her purple coat and bright orange fluffy bobble hat. She tells me she is 79 next week. I am already in love! Then in turn , they pile through the door, June, Jean, Joan, Maureen, Rita.... they may have recognised faces in the doctor's surgery, but straight away they start nattering and we couldn't keep them quiet.
The class hadn't started and they were already questioning us around knee replacements and potassium. Frail and elderly? Their willingness and attitude did not show frail and definitely not elderly! Their common ground is the co-morbidities that they share, stroke, neuropathy, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, MS, Parkinsons, balance and fear.
Often week one is emotional as they are usually nervous. They are anxious that we will be doing aerobics, which we quickly put them at ease about.
What makes this group different? Having been teaching in this population for over 10 years I am still amazed by people's willingness to improve their health. No one appreciates being young until old age takes over. All my groups relax and show their true selves quickly. When you are older, time matters. They have little shame, at their point in life, they have been poked and prodded pretty much everywhere. They have survived bitter winters and are still telling the tales of the past.
Being older, doesn't make them stupid or boring, but fascinating and free. They lack some social etiquette and quite frankly, they deserve to say how they feel, they have earned it. What is so delightful is that their opinions matter. They are funny and their energy amplifies in their presence. Sometimes a sadness glazes over their eyes. The body is not willing but the mind and eyes are still young, equally the mind can be tired too.
In the centre of the group today, I felt happy and honoured to be in their company. I know Pat feels the same. I love the stories about paying sixpence for a pint of cream from the farmers house.
As for Estelle, well her flexibility was that of a Yoga teacher. At the end of the session, she said "as you are here, help me get my coat on and see me out please?... and while you are there, check my buttons are done up properly" and in a flash she was gone.
Since then, I have reflected on my encounter with today's group and I am just simply in love.
For the record, we did do some exercise, not like how you imagine it to look, but it was physical activity. We also discussed posture, medication and eating your greens. I can't disclose all of it as some of it was saucy! Next week, I promise we will bring the biscuits (we nearly had a riot on our hands).
Oldies are awesome. That's all x