Exercise at 101: Joe’s daily way of life

Joe upper body

Wanner does upper body training three days a week under the watchful eye of Bethany Village Exercise Physiologist Craig Cole.

At 101, Joe Wanner doesn’t miss a day of exercise. See Joe’s workout video.

He takes a daily one-mile walk inside Bethany Village.  He goes to the retirement community’s Fitness Center three afternoons a week to do a half-hour workout on the step machine and then upper body exercises. He does all that after his 40-minute routine of stretching and leg and arm lifts every morning in bed.

“I never tried to be a muscleman, I just like to be physically fit,” says Wanner, who retired 36 years ago as a mechanical engineer for Delco. “It’s always been a part of my life.”

Wanner says his exercise habits are “nothing special,” but he’s easily the oldest person using the Fitness Center, says Craig Cole, Exercise Physiologist for Bethany Village in Centerville.

“He’s a real inspiration to me,” says Cole. “It’s incredibly rare to have his dedication to remaining physically fit. Joe wakes up ready to work out.”

Wanner doesn’t take vacations from fitness. At his family’s Michigan vacation home this summer, the ground was too sandy for his walker, which he uses for balance. So he measured the length of the wraparound porch at 55 feet each way and 110 feet per round trip. Then he walked 50 laps a day to be sure to log 5,500 feet – more than a mile.

Joe Wanner NuStep“He says if he misses his exercise, he’s not ready for the day,” says his daughter, Judi Weaver, of Washington Twp. Growing up, she saw him exercise every morning before going to work. She says she has followed his example with her own daily workouts.

He relished playing outdoor games with his children and doing yard work, she says. His fitness also served him well as an energetic traveler: He and his wife, Martie, went on 77 vacation trips, including six continents during their 66 years of marriage. She passed away in 2003.

His hard work helped him come back strong after he suffered a stroke four years ago, at age 97. “It was difficult, but I did what I had to do.”

Wanner says he feels fortunate to live where he has plenty of places to walk in Bethany Village, with fitness facilities and experts like Cole.

“It means just about everything to me. He (Cole) knows what he’s doing. I don’t do exercises (in the fitness center) without having someone observe. He’s got a good idea of what’s good for me and evaluates whether it’s difficult enough and long enough. It gives me a feeling of security. I get satisfaction out of it.

Joe with Cole“I like to be able to do the things I need to do.” He enjoys attending educational presentations and social activities in Bethany Village, and likes being able to take care of himself.

Cole says older persons can actually “reverse the body’s clock” by strengthening muscles, rebuilding bone density and improving their cardiovascular systems with regular exercise. “I see people in our fitness programs not only maintaining, but improving their physical fitness.”

Jim Wanner says his father’s attention to physical fitness also keeps his mind sharp. “It’s remarkable that a guy who is almost 102 (in October) has retained his level of mental acuity.”

Joe Wanner is serious about his daily walk: He doesn’t do it in order to look at the landscape. “I do take in things, but the purpose of walking is to stay fit.”

But he finds joy in active living.

“I never grew up and I have no intention to.”

Graceworks Lutheran Services is the parent company of Bethany Village retirement community; Graceworks at Home homecare services; Graceworks Enhanced Living residential services and care for individuals with intellectual disabilities; Graceworks Housing Services, housing communities for seniors with limited income; and Consumer Credit Counseling Service.