Three Fit and Inspiring Seniors

It’s fun and fitness month at Midnight Sun Home Care! June, in Alaska, just makes us want to get out and get active. To celebrate, we’re talking about how seniors and their families can do this in a safe, informed and enjoyable way. And, we’re helping you do that too, by launching our Senior Fitness Program, in partnership with Alaska Fit, and by hosting the Midnight Sun Charity Golf Classic.

Sometimes, when we want to start something new or revive an old healthy habit, we have conversations with ourselves that aren’t always helpful. It’s normal to feel doubts or questions our abilities, but it’s also helpful to find ways to put those thoughts to rest. It helps to find people who inspire us to pursue the goal. Let’s look at a few seniors who can certainly help to motivate us, just by what they’ve accomplished in their personal fitness.

Sy Perlis: Record-Breaking Weightlifter

Sy PerlisOne year ago, 91-year old Sy Perlis broke the World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters record in his division at the National Championships in Phoenix, Arizona. He bench-pressed 187.2 pounds; to beat the record of 135 pounds that had been held since 2005. That’s impressive in itself, but Perlis is inspiring for many reasons, not the least, his attitude. Perlis isn’t a lifelong weightlifter. He started when he was 60 and didn’t begin competing until 5 years ago. He gets a lot of satisfaction from it and it makes him feel good. Even as he contends with health issues that come as a normal part of aging, he continues to work out 5 days a week, which includes cardiovascular exercise. What’s more, his wife Joan, who is about 20 years younger, gets her motivation for fitness from Sy. He keeps her active and he impresses his younger cohorts.


Olga Kotelko: Track Star

Olga KotelkoFor someone who didn’t take up track and field until she was 77 years old, Olga Kotelko is breaking records: 26 and counting. At 94, Olga continues to inspire and impress people with her avid participation in 11 track and field sports. Olga has always been active, as a farmer’s daughter, a single mother of two and a schoolteacher. But her choice to begin competing during this chapter of her life has brought her a great level of fitness. Experts say she has the capability of someone 30 years her junior. People of all ages look to Olga for insight on how to stay fit and healthy for longer. Some of her “secrets” include daily exercise, 8 hours of sleep, avoidance of processed foods and stretching and meditation sessions in the middle of the night (yes, that’s true!). But it’s clear that her perspective is critical as well. She continuously challenges herself, and works her mind as well as her body. She also listens to her body and focuses on positivity by embracing every day and constantly looking for ways to grow. She’s been such an inspiration that a book was recently published about her called, What Makes Olga Run? It might start with her favorite sport, the hammer throw.

Alaska’s Own: Tom Choate

Tom ChoateNearly one year ago, Tom Choate set the record as the oldest man (at 78) to summit Denali—and in case you need a reminder: it’s the highest mountain in North America, at 20, 320 feet high. Tom also holds the record for the greatest span of time between a first ascent and a last ascent of The High One. Tom began making climbs up the mountain in 1963, but on his climb last year, he had an artificial hip. Choate refers to himself as “an old mountain goat,” but it’s clear he has the kind of resilience that Alaskans embrace. When he began last year’s ascent, he said he was only up to four hours of exercise a day on his new hip, but as they waited for the right weather, he built his stamina and was good for 8-hour days.

When you think about these athletes who are out setting records, it’s a little easier to think about going to an exercise class or getting out for a walk or run, tomorrow. Think big. Start small. There is no telling how far you can go!


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