Fitness class helps 98-year-old recover from heart surgery

May 7, 2024 Providence News Team

Cleone Anderson

Cleone Anderson leaves her bedazzled cane by the front door, picks up some cuff weights, and takes her place in the EnhanceFitness Class at Providence Outpatient Rehabilitation in Walla Walla. Several of her classmates smile widely, delighted she is again joining them. Until a recent birthday celebration, they had assumed she was in her 80s.

Anderson is 98.

In a little over a year, she has had a heart valve replacement, packed up everything she owned, sold her home in California where she lived by herself, and moved to Walla Walla to live with a niece and nephew. Major life changes are difficult, especially at 98 while recovering from heart surgery.  Focused exercise has been essential to her recovery, starting with cardiac rehabilitation at Providence St. Mary Medical Center, followed by EnhanceFitness to continue building strength and endurance.

“They have all been nice and helpful, and have gotten me fixed,” she said. “That’s what I’m here for.”

EnhanceFitness is a relaxed, hourlong class for adults 60 and over that focuses on gentle cardiovascular exercise, strength training, balance, and flexibility. The nationwide program has been demonstrated to improve physical function, protect against falls and injury, promote an active lifestyle, and help decrease isolation and depression.

In the EnhanceFItness class at the Providence Southgate Medical Park, county music plays at the request of the class, and the classmates tease and encourage one another as they exercise, led by Dylan Baker, rehabilitation aide and licensed personal trainer. Several people have walkers, and each person in the class works to their ability, sitting if they need to rest. Some were referred to the class by a provider, but anyone 60 and over can join the free class with just as phone call to the coordinator at 509-897-8076 if there is an open slot.

Anderson moves through the exercises with a certain level of determination and rarely sits to rest.

“Self-discipline is difficult, but without it I wouldn’t be here,” she said. “I didn’t expect to get this old, really. I’m finding out what it is like.”

She has tacked many major life changes in her 98 years and has needed that determination. Before she retired in 1985, she worked for the aerospace company Lockheed (now Lockheed Martin) preparing and presenting administrative data for special management programs. Her husband passed in 2007, and she found her way forward with a circle of good friends.

Now she is building a new life yet again at 98, working hard to do as much as she is able. The EnhanceFitness class is three days a week. She said she doesn’t always feel like going, but goes anyway, encouraged by her niece. She has yet to miss a class.

 “I’ve always kept physically moving,” she said.  

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