It’s training 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 others to keep up.
Bailey’s classes consist of about 35 minutes of exercises done sitting in a chair, with movements that target the rotators, knees, hips, shoulders and neck.
She and her fitness partners swing their arms, lift their legs and touch their feet – all under the supervision of the centenarian.
“Move every part of your body. I’m a little hard on them because I want them to do well. I want all of us to keep walking,” Bailey tells TODAY.com.
“You have to keep your body busy and your mind busy…why just give up?”
The 102-year-old lives in the independent living section of the community, which means she is all alone in her apartment and does not need a nurse. She cooks for herself, bakes for the staff, walks to activities and loves to read.
Bailey has been doing the workout he teaches for years — “I know it’s good for me” — but when asked if he’s been exercising all his life, he has.
“Well, (I’ve spent) most of my life at home with the kids — I don’t need to exercise,” he says.
“I was a stay-at-home mom and a 4-H leader and I volunteered at the hospital for 34 years and I’ve always been busy. I think you need to keep your mind and body healthy.”
Bailey was born in 1921 in Lusk, Wyoming. In addition to raising three children, she was a businesswoman, becoming a florist with a friend. They mainly do weddings and Bailey still loves working with flowers. One of her hobbies is making wreaths for the doors of her neighbors in the community.
Bailey says she has no secrets to living a long life, but the longevity champion shared some of her healthy habits:
Always take care of your health
Getting to 102 is “part genius, I’m sure,” says Bailey. “(But) I spent most of my life trying to eat the right things and do the right things.
She walked every day and still walks, just shorter distances and with the help of a walker. He has never smoked and never had problems with excess weight.
Bailey never had cancer, although the disease took a toll on her family: she lost a daughter and her husband to cancer.
He had some problems with his heart – the valve that enters his main artery wasn’t working as it should – so doctors suggested heart surgery when he was 96, but Bailey refused.
“I think if God was ready for me, he would take me and he hasn’t, so I guess that means I have things to do,” he says.
Eat a healthy diet, but leave room for pleasure
Bailey eats a lot of fruit and vegetables and has eaten meat her whole life, although she’s reached a point now where “I don’t care if I don’t have a lot of meat,” she says.
He likes to drink alcohol socially, usually a glass of wine when he is with a group of people.
When asked if she likes sweets, Bailey lights up: “I do. I don’t always eat all my dinner, but I always eat all my desserts,” she notes. His favorite is “something chocolate”.
Keep your mind busy
Bailey loves reading, especially a good mystery novel. “It makes you think. It’s completely different from life in the real world,” he says. “I don’t sit down and finish a book in a day like I used to, so it takes a little longer, but that’s okay.”
Brain experts recommend reading fiction to keep your memory strong because you have to remember characters and plots – a workout for the mind.
Bailey also enjoys writing letters by hand to loved ones, “which I think is old-fashioned, but I still write letters to my kids.”
Keep a positive outlook
In conversation, Bailey often calls herself very blessed.
“I think mostly I’m an optimist,” Bailey says. “You can go down like anybody else … and nobody maintains (optimism) 24/7, but I think I just try to think positive.”