97-year-old woman pumping iron to stay healthy

Maureen Mccarthy

Priscilla Caskin, 97, of Whitman knows what you need for a long and productive life: Laughter and perseverance in healthy measure, along with biceps curls, leg extensions, shoulder presses and abdominal work.

Three times a week, she walks to the Curves gym for a high-energy, half-hour workout.

“You have to honor your body and keep on going,” she said during a recent training session. “My parents always encouraged me to be active. But we all have choices.”

Her decision to work out is a pretty good one, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institute on Aging.

The agency advocates regular physical activity for seniors to help them reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and breast and colon cancer. It can also lessen the effects of arthritis, depression and anxiety.

Sensible weight training in particular has several benefits for seniors – it helps them maintain balance, retain bone density and avoid injury from falls.

Working out has helped keep Caskin healthy and youthful, and it has helped her look the part.

“I want to be like her,” said fellow Curves member Lynda Tripp of Whitman. “She looks like she is 68 years old.”

Caskin, a 1934 Wheaton College graduate, avid reader and political enthusiast, will celebrate her 98th birthday on Aug. 20. She said she is committed to maintaining her physical and mental agility for years.

“You have to keep on moving, have fun. ... Laughter is the best medicine,” she said.