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I have always been physically active - a "tomboy", as a little girl growing up in Northern New Mexico (Cebolla, Canjilon, Santa Fe). As an adult, I continued to ride horseback for many years over extremely challenging wilderness terrain in my adopted state of Arizona (the horse got a workout, but riding in extreme conditions like that gave me one, too!). When I sold my last horse, I kept active for the next 20 years or so on various home exercise machines - Schwinn bikes, Nordic Track machines, etc. Then in 2004 I moved to Espanola to care for my elderly aunt, and in the process I became older and more sedentary. I knew I needed to do something more to keep active and interested in life, but I wasn’t sure what that would be.

Fortunately, I became aware of Española’s gym when I enrolled in my Medicare Supplement Plan with Presbyterian Advantage Insurance. The plan came with a free gym membership and information on "Silver Sneakers" exercise program. A friend of mine who is a caregiver for elderly people had told me what a great program Silver Sneakers is, so I decided to go to the gym and check it out. I was reluctant, as I thought that "gym" meant either a "meat market" environment, or else a lot of sweaty, macho guys working out where over-65 women would only be perceived as "being in the way". Thankfully, that has proved to be totally inaccurate. After going to the gym and speaking with Gino in January of 2009, I felt totally safe and optimistic in signing up. I am happy to say that, a year later, I have not been disappointed.

I cannot emphasize how important it is, at any age, to begin (or continue) an exercise program. My doctor told me, after my bone-density test in 2008, that I needed to do more bone-building exercise because my hips were showing signs of "osteopinea" the precursor to full-blown osteoperosis. Yes, I had exercised before I became "elderly", but it was mostly semi-aerobic, on stationary bikes and ski-machines, not muscle-and-bone-building, and I had no idea how little effort, at over 65, it would take for me to actually build muscular body and bone mass, producing a flatter stomach, much stronger arms and legs and, hopefully, more bone in my hip area (this will be shown when I have another bone-density test in 2010- wish me luck!). Voila! I sit up straighter - I don’t slump like I used to. To be honest, I have less trouble containing urine (a bane for older women who have had kids). I can (and must - I have a large yard) go outside and work in my yard and garden. A couple of years ago, I would get exhausted with little effort and just give up, go inside and watch TV. Today, thanks to the gym, I can go out and really work in the yard for several hours without hurting or even breaking a sweat.

Yes, I still have a little "belly" fat, but under that is hard muscle that helps keep me standing proud and erect as never before - even in my younger years. I never thought of "body building" at a gym, but if I had started years ago, I believe I would have both enjoyed it and been good at it - I can’t believe how much stronger I am now.

Along with many years of taking supplements that I deemed appropriate, and eating food that was more healthful, I have found a lifestyle that now includes the gym several days a week. Hopefully, this will keep me healthy another 20-30 years. My aunt lived to 104 without living a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps an even longer and healthier life awaits me with the help of Gino’s Gym. We’ll see. And this is not to mention the friends and community that I have found in Silver Sneaker’s class. That alone is priceless.

Thank you, Gino.

Patricia Victour
Espanola, NM

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