Secrets to aging successfully from a 90-year-old client

Jessie D SMART Blueprint

Each client of VON’s SMART (Seniors Maintaining Active Roles Together®) exercise and falls prevention classes has a unique story to tell. One such client is Jessie D., a 90-year-old retirement home resident who attends SMART classes twice per week. 

“She is a true role model not only for the staff and residents at the home, but to those like myself who want to learn how to maintain health, happiness and a positive attitude,” says Kelly Gee, SMART supervisor.

Jessie drives a car, walks daily (without any assistive devices), never misses an exercise class and has an infectiously positive personality. All this despite the fact that she developed polymyalgia rheumatica, a debilitating inflammatory disorder, 20 years ago. 

The disorder causes muscle pain and stiffness, making everyday tasks excruciatingly painful. At the time of diagnosis, Jessie’s once-active lifestyle came to a grinding halt; she felt trapped in her own body.

Determined to regain control, she sought medical guidance and treatment and worked on her mental resilience, practicing mindfulness and praying. With the addition of SMART exercises, water exercises and physical therapy, she eventually reclaimed her mobility.

Kelly sat down with Jessie to find out how she has embraced aging. Here are some of her tips:

Do your best!
Whether it's pursuing hobbies, work or relationships, it is worth the effort!

Embrace self-acceptance and practice compassion 
Rather than judgement, offer kindness to yourself and others. Jessie believes that being thoughtful and spreading happiness has created much joy and peace in her life.

Consume everything in moderation
Jessie likes her dessert; she can’t resist chocolate and has the occasional alcoholic beverage, but overall she eats a balanced diet with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein.

Get regular physical exercise
Jessie walks every single day in all types of weather. She also participates in the SMART exercise program twice a week and does exercises during commercials when watching television. She finds a way to incorporate movement into almost everything that she does. 

Exercise your mind
Jessie also engages in mental exercises that keep her mind sharp. She challenges herself to review which staff and residents of her retirement community drive which car on a daily basis. To remember something long term, she visualizes what she wants to remember.

Keep up social connections
Staying connected with friends, family and members of her congregation has played a significant role in promoting Jessie’s emotional well-being and reducing feelings of isolation.

Cultivate a positive mindset 
Embrace life's changes and challenges. Focus on gratitude, and practice mindfulness; stay present and appreciate the small things in life. Life will throw you curveballs and what matters is not what has happened but how you react to it. 

“Jessie’s remarkable story serves as a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the transformative power of perseverance and determination,” says Kelly.

Find out more about VON’s free SMART exercise classes in your area.