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"I look around and think: ‘It’s lovely to be part of something so friendly and worthwhile’."

Ruth and Max - Health and Fitness Participants
Ruth and Max - Health and Fitness Participants Ruth and Max are familiar faces around the Y’s Manning Aquatic Leisure Centre at Taree.

At 81, Ruth recalls playing sport in school and beyond, and says she’s always led an active lifestyle. “Looking back, I feel I’ve always been an energetic person but I’ve never been a gifted sportsperson,” she said.

Max, who takes sport more seriously, chips in: “I’ve always been a swimmer, it’s something I’ve enjoyed from my teenage years,” a sentiment his wife of almost 59 years (in 2023) immediately agreed with. Max has also played and coached other sports in the past, with interest and talent in rugby union, rugby league and squash.

Today, they both attend the Y’s Manning Aquatic Leisure Centre at Taree as part of their routine to help themselves and each other, to age well.

“We live close to the Centre so it’s very convenient,” said Max, who has been swimming there for 23 years. “I go swimming every morning at 7.30am or 8am – after the workers and before the aqua classes start, so I can get a lane in the pool inside.”

The 81-year-old swims one and a half to two kilometres most days, switching to the outdoor 50m pool in warmer weather. Swimming helped him get through some significant health issues over the years, including cancer five years ago. Max continued to swim two kilometres a day, even during radiation, although he didn’t quite make it to the end of the fourth week of his cancer treatment because he felt too tired. Swimming also aided his recovery after heart surgery.

“I was 80 when I had a heart attack and Ruth had to call the ambulance,” Max said.

It was Max who first encouraged Ruth to become involved in fitness at the Y. Three years ago, Max told her about the fitness classes available at the Centre, suggesting she give it a go. Ruth signed up for a trial week and was hooked.

“I go to the Y at 8.15am three mornings a week for YDance, aerobics and circuit classes,” Ruth said. “I love it because the classes are all so different. All the instructors are lovely. They’re really enthusiastic and well qualified and in fact our Aerobics instructor was recently named in the top four in New South Wales. She will be going to Melbourne in September to compete and we are all excited about this accolade,” Ruth said.

The Aerobics and Circuit classes Ruth attends are part of the Y’s PrYme Movers program which offers a range of group fitness activities for mature adults to build strength, balance and flexibility through aerobic exercise and progressive resistance training.

Ruth and Max have different experiences at the Y that reflect their individual preferences.

For Ruth, the Centre is a great social place. She describes how welcoming everyone is from the moment she enters. “As you go to check in, the reception staff and the instructors are all ready to smile and say ‘hi’. When I look around at the people in the fitness studio, I see friends I’ve known from past times and new friends I’ve met. Every class is focussed on fitness through fun. I look around and think: ‘It’s lovely to be part of something so friendly and worthwhile’.”

Max ‘just swims along and follows the black line’ in the pool. He said he knows he’s “doing alright pace-wise” from the swimming coach who sometimes swims at the same time. Max has also made friends he can have a yarn with about cricket and rugby league, sometimes over coffee or lunch.

Max and Ruth both share a common goal: to stay as healthy as they can as they age and to keep living everyday life and enjoying their family.

“I just want to continue what I’m doing,” said Ruth, who has been actively volunteering for almost two decades. “I volunteer in an Op-shop, I’m enjoying fitness classes and I meet up with a lovely social bushwalking group almost every Friday, walking six to eight kilometres. I do all my own housework and shopping, and help my daughter when I can.”

Max isn’t swimming 100m freestyle in the time he used to record when he was a teenager anymore, but he still swims with his 21-year-old grandson, who lives close by. “It’s great when my grandson comes over in summer and we swim together. Until he was 15 I could still beat him over laps, but not now.”

“Being healthy is a big secret to ageing well and enjoying life,” Max said. “I want to do things, to be flexible and know I can help someone if I need to. I don’t want to be reliant on walkers. I still want us to go out for dinner every Saturday night.”

Ruth agrees when Max adds: “I don’t think taking one hour in 24 to work on your health and fitness is too hard. And the Y Centre provides the very best facilities to help Ruth and I do that.”

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