It’s not easy keeping fit when you’re in your 80s, but Irving Wardle has found a way …
It was an ad in the local paper that did it. It promised easy-going classes for the over-60s which would guarantee heightened energy and all-round well-being. Although they went by the passion-killing name of Prime Time, I signed up for the classes and became addicted on the spot. I liked the instructors. I liked the exercises, and all went well for a few years until the week when, to my dismay, Prime Time vanished from the timetable.
I should have seen this coming. Our numbers were in decline. What had been a boisterous roomful of 20 old ladies and me had shrunk to a defiant last stand of four or five old ladies and me. Big Sheila had been claimed by her grandchildren. Betty had to look after her sick husband. Chubby Barbara had died of cancer. Other men seldom came near the class, preferring to torture their biceps and glutes with pieces of machinery, or sit in the locker room ranting on about football. My impression was that the women came to the gym to do themselves a bit of good, whereas for the men it was somewhere to escape to.
The crunch arrived at a session when our hitherto undeflatable instructor, Pam, found herself alone with me, practising salsa steps for a full hour. That took the wind out of her. Too late, the others rallied for a final stand against the management: but the axe had fallen, and when Pam’s next class came around, Prime Time had given way to Zumba.
The average age in the new class was 35. It contained girls displaying intricate butterfly tattoos, wielding their hips like trip-hammers, and capable of changing from a herd of charging rhinos to a flight of migrating birds. The survivors of the Prime Time gang took one look at them and fled. For some reason, I did not follow them.
At 82 I was older than any of the old ladies; and every time I came to the gym I had to haul myself up the stairs to the reception desk with my knees cracking and popping like a xylophone band. But, once I got on the studio floor, it was as if I’d shed 20 years. I couldn’t bounce; but everything else—grapevine, box-step, mamba, up-and-over, cha-cha, repeater, curl, pony, half-jack and the whole aerobic box of tricks—I could still manage, and even enjoy. So why not stick around and see what else I might be able to do?