- Associated Press - Saturday, June 13, 2015

TYRONE, Pa. (AP) - Edith Waite wanted to participate in an exercise program, but she didn’t want to drive to Altoona.

So in 2000, Waite, at the age of 81, helped start an exercise program at the Northern Blair Senior Center.

“A physical therapist from Tyrone Hospital was sent to teach us the program and stayed with us for six weeks. There were five of us. I am very proud it started from our five people,” Waite said. “She (the therapist) couldn’t stay any longer; the hospital was paying her. If we wanted to keep it (the program), they needed someone to take it over, and she was looking at me. No one else would do it, but I said OK, I would do it but I needed help,” Waite said.

Fifteen years later, at the age of 96, Waite remains one of the leaders of the program, now called Healthy Steps in Motion, which is held three mornings a week.

Healthy Steps in Motions is an exercise program developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging in partnership with the University of California at Berkeley for adults 50 years of age and older with different fitness levels - beginner, intermediate and advanced. HSIM includes exercise routines and education about the benefits of exercise. Each participant receives a colorful calendar-style booklet with directions and illustrations of exercises as well as information about how to set goals and keep track of progress.

Participants learn how to reduce risks of falling, learn new exercises to build strength, especially in the lower body, and increase flexibility to improve movement in order to be safer and work toward improved health, according to the Department of Aging website.

“We do chair exercises. We exercise every muscle in the body from top to bottom. A lot of people who have physical therapy have done this for different parts of the body,” Waite said.

Waite, a Tyrone native and 1936 graduate of Tyrone High School, has always been active.

“Walking was my thing. We (she and two friends) walked three miles every morning. We would meet at 7 a.m. and walk up to Reservoir Park and up around the school and hospital. When I retired is when I really got into walking,” said Waite, who retired as a proofreader of the Huntingdon Daily News.

Waite said she has been fortunate to maintain good health but recently had to give up driving because of macular degeneration.

“My husband died in 1968, and I have been responsible for myself ever since. I would just get in the car and go. I don’t know what I miss most: driving or reading. I was an avid reader all of my life,” Waite said.

Staying active has been the key to her long life, Waite said.

Mary Wagner, her neighbor and class participant, calls Waite an amazing lady.

“She doesn’t let her age keep her from doing as much as possible. She is one of our leaders at the senior center exercise class and seems to have more energy than lots of us younger girls. She dresses so smartly; her outfits always match from top to bottom, including her socks,” Wagner said. “She leads a quite active life, going out to eat with a group of friends every single Saturday. She is an inspiration to all of us who know her.”

Miriam McClain, 86, who also helps run the class, said everyone looks up to “Edie.”

“She is extremely vivacious. She loves people. She is amazing. I tell her she can walk circles around me. She just goes. She is an inspiration. She is extremely admired by everyone in the group. She is always there to get things started and moving. She is a very special person,” McClain said.

Waite encourages other seniors to join the class, which usually has between 24 and 30 participants.

“We have people who come here for lunch. I say why don’t you join us instead of just coming for lunch. It is a low key program, which is good for older people,” Waite said.

Tina Fultz, senior center manager, said Waite plays an important role at the center.

“She is friendly and outgoing and has a very positive outlook on life. She is very kind and very good with new people. She makes them feel comfortable instantly. Without her, we would have struggled. She is an excellent role model. I don’t know of another instructor who is 96. She is a good role model and inspiration to everybody,” Fultz said.

“She exemplifies what we are trying to do here, stressing the importance of keeping active later in life, keeping your brain sharp. She exemplifies our mission of empowerment, that the senior population is very capable.”





Information from: Altoona Mirror, https://www.altoonamirror.com

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