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The oldest gym bunny in Eastbourne: one man’s fight for fitness over frailty

New research from King’s College London has concluded that there is a link between a lack of physical activity and frailty in older people.   “Ageing does not have to bring poor health and frailty, scientists have claimed, after discovering that the most active people in their 70s are as fit as those in their 50s.  A study of older cyclists found that there was little physical difference between people aged 79 and those aged 55 if they maintained similar levels of exercise.  Researchers at King’s College London say the findings debunk the common assumption that ageing automatically makes people doddery and infirm”.  I can certainly attest to that after a recent visit to my godfather, the oldest gym bunny in Eastbourne.

Aged 93, he has been in rude health.   Unfortunately in the last few months things have caught up with him and his terminal illness is finally taking over.  But it is without doubt that his excellent physical health has ensured both his longevity and his ability to stave off the worst effects of his illness until now.

The day I visited he felt unable to come out for lunch.  So his wife took me on her own to The Grand Hotel on the front at Eastbourne.  It was just as it should be – a set from a period tv series – all palms and corridors and ladies of a certain age enjoying a spot of lunch on a miserably rainy day.   As we walked through the reception area and through to the restaurant it became clear that my Godfather was well known throughout the hotel, as every member of staff we encountered enquired after his whereabouts that day.

It transpires that he has been a member of the gym at the Hotel and has continued to go on the running and rowing machines until a few months ago.  I couldn’t quite work out whether he was the most fantastic advertisement for the benefits of joining the Hotel gym, or whether the vision he presented might be perhaps not the ideal poster child for promotion of the gym.   I decided on the former.   And felt particularly pleased that the hotel staff so clearly felt the same.

Not everyone is able to enjoy remaining in such great physical health and shape.  He’s a remarkable man, and its sad to see him go downhill having been so fit and vibrant. If his experience is anything to go by it would seem that even a gentle stroll every day must be worthwhile in the battle to stave off the “f” word.

Got a tip to help elderly parents take more exercise? Or struggling to get your Mum out of the chair? Either way, join the Age Space forum and let us know.