Friday, April 25, 2008

Centenarian Ex-Dancer Still Works Out

Centenarian Still Dances to the Joyous Sounds of Life

by David Ryan Alexander

She was once a dancer for Lawrence Welk, lived through both World Wars and the Great Depression, and has outlived several of her own grandchildren. On Nov. 4, Richmond District resident Alby Hunt will celebrate her 100th birthday.

Her advice for living so happily for so long and maintaining energy and clarity of mind: "Always keep moving. Don't sit still, and don't let anybody always take you by the hand. You have to do it for yourself."

With that she leaned back in her rocking chair for an extra boost and launched herself onto her feet. Once landing, she proclaimed, "I'm almost 100 and I don't have any cane or any walker," and then proceeded with her signature jig dance, swiveling her hips and her arms with a broad smile across her face.

From her youth Hunt has always been a dancer. She recalls her days in Chicago when she danced for Lawrence Welk and the Navy dances she attended with her girlfriends where she met her husband.

"I'm so happy I'm still on my own two feet. I was always a dancer," she said.

In fact, one of the first items she requested when she came to St. Anne's Home for the elderly at the age of 90 was a workout video. She quickly encouraged many of the other residents to participate. They still work out to it five times a week.

Hunt still makes the effort to maintain her appearances, and is sometimes mistaken to be only 75 years old by people that do not know her. She wears large glasses that display her bold eyes, that are both alive and aware, and her mouth is always as eager to smile as her still-agile legs are to dance. Although she is small in size, the bounces she makes with each step defy both her age and her height.

A typical day for Hunt includes regular meals and socializing, but it also consists of regular exercise.

Right after breakfast and lunch she makes her way to the exercise room and workouts on her favorite machine.
When she is finished some of the other residents often offer their assistance getting her off the bicycle, but she brushes them away and sprightly climbs off on her own. After a 10-minute rest on the nearby sofa, she continues on with her day.

In addition to the constant activity that Hunt has always filled her life with, she also finds the secret to long life in her love for raisins.

"I've eaten raisins everyday of my life for years," she said.

Besides raisins, she still eats most of whatever she wants, including her favorite food, cake, without the frosting.

Having been the oldest of eight children, Hunt remembers how much her mother relied on her to help out with all of her young siblings.

From a very early age she had to take on a great deal of responsibility and was constantly running about trying to take care of everything. In particular, she was always in charge of hanging up the laundry for their family of 10.

All of the children were raised in Chicago, so during the winter she would have to climb into the attic to hang up all of the clothes to dry. She attributes this chore to the beginning of a life of constant activity.

Hunt and her husband raised two daughters, who are both still alive and living in California.

About eight years ago, while on an outing with residents of St. Anne's, Hunt's heart unexpectedly faltered and she was rushed to the hospital, where she was given a pacemaker.

When she came back to St. Anne's after her release from the hospital, the first thing she recalled saying was, "Now I'm going to live forever."

* * *

So we see she has a great sense of humor and is constantly active--with formal exercise, dance, and keeping busy with chores. She embodies what she advises with her "earnest personality" (as described by a researcher from another article) that spurs her to up and do what she knows she needs, e.g., immediately getting an exercise video at the nursing home. She didn't wait for anybody for take care of her own needs; you ultimately are responsible for you.

Raisins have lots of important nutrients that may contribute to the health benefits observed in red wine, though red wine, when fermented properly (most manufacturers usually cut corners), loses all the sugar content while further enhancing the nutritious phytochemical properties. One added benefit of raisins themselves though is that they can be high in salicylates. If you'll recall, aspirin, widely touted for its health benefits, is a salicylate. Women tend to be resistant to aspirin's benefits while still suffering side effects like intestinal damage, so dried fruits high in salicylates may be a better bet.

There are some factors helping Alby Hunt that we can't control, such as her small body size, her sex, and being a first born child. But her lifestyle should inspire us all to increase quality and quantity of life by vigilantly exercising. If she's 100 and makes herself go workout after every breakfast and lunch, why can't you kids who are a quarter of her age?

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