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Exercise Matters

During the last decade I have had regular dialogues with an older woman, Molly, in the gym where I work out. I love talking to seniors to listen to their words of wisdom along with stories about their past dreams and passions. Molly is now 85 years old and has Alzheimer’s. For the last six years she kept pointing out to me that she was not the same woman she used to be. “But then who is?” I quipped. A consummate humorist, Molly had trouble recalling her favorite jokes. “So write them down in a notebook which you can carry with you and read them instead of recite them,” I suggested.

Even though she was quite arthritic, Molly worked out six days a week lifting weights using the Cybex machines to hold her in place for proper execution of the movements. For the last four years she had trouble getting down on the floor to do pushups and sit-ups as it was too difficult for her to get up. She was able to get through her workout by using machines like the chest press – there is always a way. She became very thin and had to wear a sweater to her workouts while I worked out in a tank top, “You’re just a hot tamale,” she would remark. When I asked her if she was eating enough to fuel her muscles, she confessed that she had lost her appetite and had no interest in food. She ate the bare minimum. Then her gait became a bit more wobbly. She still drove to the gym, her favorite coffee shop and the beauty parlor for her regular hair do. She was independent.

However, now things have changed. Molly has become a trainer. She trains her companion who is eagerly learning from her how to use each machine – she can still teach younger women a thing or two. I greeted Molly and she answered with a big smile, “Hi good to see you. This is my friend, Gladys.” I greeted Gladys with a handshake. “See Gladys, this lady is a writer and I have all her books. Are you writing anything new? When will I see it? I’m not getting any younger, you know.”

A few minutes later the three of us met in the locker room – each of us done with our workout. Molly greeted me warmly, “Hi good to see you. This is my friend, Gladys.” I greeted Gladys as if this was the first time we had met.” “This lady is a writer and I have all her books. Are you writing anything new?” I answered, “Of course, I’m always working on things.” Molly laughed, “Well, hurry up. I’m not getting any younger.” “I’ll have it for your birthday,” I answered emphatically. Molly looked confused. She turned to Gladys and asked, “When is my birthday?”

I am convinced that Gladys has been in the early stages of Alzheimer’s for the past five or six years, but most people would not have guessed it – it’s just that I have experience with the subtleties. I am equally convinced that Gladys postponed the disease for many years and has enhanced the quality of her life with strength training.
For more information on caregiving read my book, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show




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