89-year-old couple proves you're never too old to get fit

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Been to a gym lately? These days, you'd think most of the attention is focused on the over-60 crowd....and you'd be right.

Doctors have changed their tune almost overnight when it comes to getting senior citizens out of the garden and onto a stair-stepper or bench press. In fact, the fitness industry's survival is getting a huge pump from this new clientele. But is it really safe for this aging population?

There's no question, these seniors are, for all intents and purposes, been counted out as a medical burden and the brunt of political scare tactics about death panels, and drains on Social Security.

Yet, life expectancy for every one of us is growing by the day.

For Jack and Kay Rogers, life in the fast lane has slowed a bit, but they are not looking to their 90's as a time for easy chairs, game shows and frozen dinners. This husband and wife of 62 years are scooting around the best they can. Their bodies are what many would consider beyond repair: heart bypasses, fused bones, screws and scars. She has diabetes and leg braces, he's dealing with arthritis and balance issues. However, they are not discouraged.

"I'm the only one that comes in with a walker, probably," says Katherine.

According to their doctors, the Rogers are the perfect candidates for a heart-pounding workout, and their personal trainer couldn't agree more.

"I would not have expected as a personal trainer that this would be part of the clientele base," says Fitness Edge head trainer, Tony Ponton. "Oh no - never."

Yet, better than 50-percent of Ponton's clientele carry AARP cards, and this is a guy certified to train professional athletes.

"With the Rogers, they're eager," Ponton adds. "You can see they like to use the machines. They like to do everything, and they know their limitations. I tell everyone, with my clients from 20 to like the Rogers near 90, you let me know if something hurts, because there's always a modification to any exercise."

Seeing a couple like the Rogers in a gym like this just 15 or 20 years ago was unheard of. They were too old, had too many physical problems, and was too big a liability for the gym. So, has the medical profession really changed its recommendations that radically, that quickly? The short answer is... absolutely.

"When I first went into practice 30-years ago," says family physician Dr. Brian Adler, "the idea was, you know, you're 65. It's time to sit in your chair. Don't over do it. If you have a heart problem or if you have joint or hip problems, don't over do it."

Today, Adler doesn't have a patient who isn't given a different kind of message than the one we all heard just a decade ago.

"By and large, there's no exception," insists Dr. Adler. "I tell people everyday at any age, 90's and older, you want to do something. You want to keep moving."

Every day, our average life expectancy is lengthening, and despite accidents or catastrophic illnesses, medical miracles will likely keep us alive. But in what condition? What quality of life is acceptable to you?

"So often I'll have someone who doesn't particularly care say to me, well Doc, I might just keel over and die," says Dr. Adler. "And I say well, no. The statistics are more likely that you're gonna be disabled."

That's unacceptable to Jack and Katherine. They like living, and more important than every before, they like a quality of life.

"That's where the fun is," says Jack. "We can tell after we've had a session. The walking is better, our stamina is much better. When we're away from this, we have to get back."

"It's amazing how many people here come up and say - the younger ones say - I wish my mother and dad would be doing that," adds Katherine.

An entire generation is about to be saddled with older adult care in this country. Many of the seniors are living with debilitating conditions because of now-outdated advice. Then there are those who have been lifted out of that thinking.

"You treat everyone like they're your age. Don't hesitate," says Ponton.

The Rogers' kids, now in their 50s, aren't stupid. They understand the benefits of having healthy, independent parents like Jack and Katherine. So what do they give their parents as gifts during holiday's and birthdays? They give them more training sessions with Tony.

"I mean what a beautiful gift, because we can use it," says Jack.

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