Rose, who requested that I not take her photograph, is a no-nonsense woman who knows what she needs and takes care of business. She is a realist. Her body is slowing down and her vision is fading. But she makes the necessary accommodations.
“When I run into infirmities, I have to learn to come to terms with them.”
When I was first introduced to Rose, I was assured that she would enjoy the conversation but it might be a challenge to get on her calendar. My contact told me that Rose would most likely be “either bench pressing or walking over a mile to a community swimming pool.” I interpreted this as a code for “Rose is a very active, energetic woman who does not spend the day sitting on her living room couch.”
Turns out, there was nothing cryptic about this message When Rose invited me to her apartment for our interview, I immediately saw the bench press apparatus situated next to her bed. She shrugged off my words of admiration and gave me the facts. Yes, she did press daily – she was up to 45 pounds – and while she did walk to the pool, it was only three-quarters of a mile.
This dedicated athlete only recently incorporated fitness into her routine. For most of her life, Rose was a self-declared “exercise schlemiel (know nothing).” But in recent years, her doctor has emphasized that physical activity is essential. So she took off the piles of books and papers that had been on her late husband’s bench press and figured out how to put it to better use.
INSIGHTS FROM ROSE AT 91
Message to the world about older people:
Don’t put us into one category. The only thing common about people who are aging is that every one of us is different. This is true at every age. For some reason, we think that all old people are the same.
Message to self when feeling frustrated that some things are getting harder to do:
I need to sit myself down and tell myself to just cool it. Before I begin to doubt myself, I have to remember that it’s one step at a time.
What threatens her the most when she is walking in her neighborhood?
People on their cell phones! Everyone is looking down as they walk. I need to concentrate fully. If someone knocks into me, I’m the one who will fall.
Her everyday motto:
I don’t think about what I can’t do. I think about what I can do.”