It’s workout time and 102-year-old Jean Bailey is head of the class.
She leads exercise sessions four times a week for her fellow residents at Elk Ridge Village Senior Living in suburban Omaha, Nebraska, counting the reps and encouraging the others to keep up.
Bailey’s classes consist of about 35 minutes of exercises done seated in a chair, with moves that target the rotator cuffs, knees, hips, shoulders and the neck.
She and her fellow fitness buffs swing their arms, raise their legs and touch their toes — all under the centenarian’s supervision.
“You move every part of your body. I’m kind of tough on them because I want them to do it right. I want all of us to keep walking,” Bailey tells TODAY.com.
“You have to keep your body busy and your mind busy… why would you just give up?”
The 102-year-old lives in the independent living section of the community, which means she’s entirely on her own in her apartment and doesn’t require a nurse. She cooks for herself, bakes for the staff, walks to activities and loves to read.
Bailey has been doing the workout she teaches for years — “I know it’s good for me” — but when asked if she has exercised her entire life, she is matter of fact.
“Well, (I spent) most of my life at home with the kids — I didn’t need to do exercises,” she says.
“I was a stay-at-home mom and a 4-H leader and volunteered at the hospital for 34 years and I just have always been busy. I think you need to keep your mind and body healthy.”
Bailey was born in 1921 in Lusk, Wyoming. Besides raising three children, she was a businesswoman, becoming a florist with a friend. They did mainly weddings and Bailey still loves working with flowers. One of her hobbies is making wreaths for her neighbors’ doors in the community.
Bailey says she doesn’t have any secrets to living a long life, but the longevity champ shared some of her healthy habits:
Always be mindful of your health
Reaching 102 is “partly genes, I’m sure,” Bailey says. “(But) I spent most of my life trying to eat the right things and do the right things.”
She used to walk every day and still walks, just shorter distances and with the help of a walker. She’s never smoked and has never had problems with excess weight.
Bailey has never had cancer, although the disease has taken a toll on her family: she lost both a daughter and her husband to cancer.
She’s had some problems with her heart — the valve that goes into her main artery isn’t working the way it’s supposed to — so doctors suggested heart surgery when she was 96, but Bailey declined.
“I thought if God was ready for me, He’d take me and He hasn’t yet, so I guess that means I have things to do,” she says.
Eat a healthy diet, but leave some room for enjoyment
Bailey eats lots of fruits and vegetables and has eaten meat her entire life, though she’s come to a point now where “I don’t mind if I don’t have a lot of meat,” she says.
She enjoys drinking alcohol socially, usually a small glass of wine when she is with a group of people.
When asked if she likes sweets, Bailey lights up: “I love it. I don’t always eat all my dinner, but I always eat all my dessert,” she notes. Her favorite is “anything chocolate.”
Keep your mind busy
Bailey loves reading, especially a good mystery novel. “It makes you think. It’s entirely different than life in the real world,” she says. “I don’t sit and finish a book in a day like I used to so it takes a little longer, but it’s OK.”
Brain experts recommend reading fiction to keep memory sharp because you have to remember the characters and plot lines — a workout for the mind.
Bailey also likes to handwrite letters to her loved ones, “which I guess is old-fashioned, but I still write letters to my kids.”
Keep a positive outlook
In conversation, Bailey frequently calls herself very blessed.
“I think mainly I’m an optimist,” Bailey says. “You can get down like anybody else… and nobody keeps (optimism) 24/7, but I just I guess I just try to think positive.”
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY:
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