Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday you’ll find a lively group at Wesley Acres in Des Moines. Mary McCarthy is the Wellness Director here and she doesn’t take it easy on anyone. “Sometimes people need a challenge,” she says, “they always want to use three pounds – ALWAYS! So sometimes I stand here and say – today you get a give pound weight!”
John and Jan Mecham are regulars, with different approaches to exercise. “I’m kind of lazy,” John says with a shrug, “I need a routine to keep me at it, but once you start it’s easier to keep going and it grows on you.” Jan is just the opposite, “I’ve exercised for years and I’m an early riser!”
They do it to stay healthy and to be able to do what they want to do – like volunteer on mission trips. They’ve helped build churches and community centers and were in and out of New Orleans several times after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area. They’ve also traveled the world on vacation and last winter visited Costa Rica. “I told the travel agent we wanted to do outdoor stuff, not museums!” John says with a grin. “So she laid out the trip for us and it included zip lining!” The Mechams say they thought about backing out of the adventure but ended up loving it. “It was in the cloud forest, in the mountains at about six thousand feet. It’s really exciting to be up there in the trees. It’s a long distance to the next platform, and maybe you can’t even see it. It was amazing!”
This isn’t exactly the sort of thing you expect from people in their eighties. Jan is 81 and John is 83!
Mary says they’re proof that age really is just a number. “Age, kind of doesn’t become a factor anymore…it’s more about, how good do I feel today and let’s just show up! Research shows, the more you try a variety of things it will slow memory loss and keeps neurons firing, it’s always good to try new things.”
And challenge yourself. Remember how Mary said she pushes people to pick up those heavier weights? “They usually surprise themselves and we’ll joke together – is anybody dead, is anybody injured? OK – great!”
Thankfully, John and Jan are also more than willing to pass on their secrets. “Stay active….have a purpose…one thing that’s good is to do something for someone else every day.”
That’s good advice for a long, healthy life. “We all have the opportunity to stay as healthy as we can…the healthier you are when you’re younger, the healthier you are when you’re older.”