At Oakland’s Piedmont Gardens senior living center, Marion Marx, a 90-year-old former physical therapist, is teaching young-at-heart residents how to stay active in their own way.
Tied to Active Aging Week, or AAW, Marx works to engage seniors in a wide range of activities — from simple coaching sessions to walks along the Camino de Santiago in Spain — to inspire seniors to stay safe and active all year long.
AAW is a national initiative that celebrates aging and the benefits of active living at any age, showcasing the capabilities of older adults as fully participating members of society, according to AAW’s website. Initiated in 2003 by the International Council on Active Aging, the activities are designed to challenge stereotypes of aging and to promote physical, social, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, vocational and environmental activity for all people over the age of 50.
Ben Green, a supervisor at the GlynnDevins senior living marketing solutions firm, reflected on the stereotypes and misperceptions many people have about senior living communities and older adults. Green said he supports the need to show the positive impact active seniors such as Marx have in their local communities.
“We all know the benefits of staying active, particularly as we age, and this week is an opportunity to showcase people like Marion who, at 90 years old, (embodies) a healthy lifestyle and the culture at Piedmont Gardens,” Green said in an email.
Marx’s mother, who had escaped Nazi Germany with her daughter in 1934, was a physical therapist who inspired Marx to follow in her steps by entering this “interesting career.” Marx said she started working as a physical therapist for children and over the years transitioned to helping older adults.
Although she is now retired from her work as a physical therapist, Marx keeps a healthy and active lifestyle by participating in lively games of pingpong, as well as swimming laps a few days a week at her local YMCA pool, according to Green. Marx often leads exercise classes for her fellow residents, such as fall prevention workshops.
Although game-playing and swimming in an Olympic-sized pool are great ways to be active, physical effort is not necessarily needed to reach this healthy goal, according to Colin Milner, the CEO of Active Aging Week. Milner expressed that AAW’s theme this year is to redefine the word “active.”
“The term ‘active’… (has been) misused for a long time. We associate the term with being physically active as opposed to being active in all areas and really being engaged in life,” Milner said. “Our goal this year is to highlight the fact that it’s important to remain engaged in all areas of life.”
Piedmont Gardens exercise physiologist Kathleen Dzubur said she has overseen a positive increase in active lifestyles in the Piedmont Gardens community. According to Dzubur, about 29 percent of Piedmont Gardens residents keep up an active lifestyle.
Marx is a role model in her community and receives a lot of appreciation for facilitating individuals to do things they never realized they were capable of by helping them feel safe and supported with her patience and encouragement, according to Dzubur.
“We’re all at different levels of disability, whether it’s visual, balance, coordination problems,” Marx said. “But the more we can do, the better we feel, so I think that not judging age by years, but by functional skills is probably more useful. The saying ‘you’re only as old as you feel’ is very truthful.”