93 Year Old Role Model for Exercising for Younger Generations

Duane Jennings, the 93-year-old man who enters through the door most mornings shortly after dawn, gives Danny Rivera a glimpse of the future he wants. This man, a World War II veteran with the U.S. Army Air Force, moves easily, smiles often and is a model of health and well-being at the tail end of the life cycle.

“Other people notice when he comes in, and they are half his age or even younger. And they’re embarrassed. … They think, ‘Wow. If he can do it, I can do it,'” said Rivera, a 44-year-old personal trainer. “With him, there are no excuses.”

Duane Jennings, who is hard of hearing, caught some of the compliment and grinned.”It’s about habit, I guess,” he said.

The next two generations in his family see the benefits of Jennings’ healthy lifestyle, and they credit him for being their fitness role model. His grandson Tim Frasure, a high school senior, recalled visiting Jennings as a child and walking across the street hand in hand to swim together at the local pool. Now, at 18, Frasure thinks very little about his own golden years. “But I do think of him at his age doing all of this, and I want to be like that, too,” he said.

“All this” entails a long list of fitness activities five or six days a week. Jennings golfs, swims, cycles on a stationary bike, walks on a treadmill, lifts weights and stretches to stay in shape.

Fitness looks different for Frasure and his mother.

He swims on his high school team, rides road bikes and climbs rocks at a local gym. His mother, Joy (Jennings) Frasure, takes the Y’s fitness classes and works out on the elliptical machine.

Ultimately, though, all three members of this extended family got fit to feel strong and leave worries in their stage in life behind. Jennings routinely walked and jogged for most of his life. But early in his retirement, when his wife began losing her short-term memory and exhibiting other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, he stepped up his fitness pursuits by joining a health club.

The setting gave him access to fitness equipment while providing social interaction.”I had to do it. That’s what the book says — that caregivers need to take care of themselves, too,” he said.

When his wife died in 2003, Jennings moved to live closer to his daughter and her family. “And the first thing he did when he got here was to get a membership at the Y,” Joy Frasure, 52, said.

She joined at about the same time to avoid going on medication for high blood pressure. “I’ve burned off a lot of fat on that elliptical machine,” Joy Frasure said, laughing. “But there’s still more to go.”

For his part, Tim Frasure works out to get a break from sitting at a desk all day at school. Fitness activities help him spend down pent-up energy and give his mind a rest. “I just step away from everything when I work out,” he said.

All three generations said that establishing and maintaining a fitness routine –however modest — pays off in the near term by making it easier to climb a flight of stairs or a mountain.

As a fitness professional, Rivera knows that is true.

He greeted Jennings with a nod while he checked in other early birds at the Y’s front desk last week, and he watched as the older man walked with his family toward the locker rooms. “He’s a role model for me, too. First of all, I want to live that long. Secondly, I want to be able to do all the things he does, and that comes from staying active the whole time and not waiting until the last minute,” Rivera said. “I tell people that it’s easier when you start early and stay on the path. And you never know how you’re going to impact someone else.”


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