Kathi Bailey, Directo of Senior Services, Town of Yarmouth, Massachusetts
In the life of the ever-growing group, officially know as the students of "Joe Guardino Fitness", yesterday was the daytime equivalent of "Big Night" and they turned out in full force, not one seat was empty despite the frigid cold weather.
Once a year, Joe hosts a luncheon to honor his faithful following, the hardy and determined senior residents of the Town of Yarmouth who brave the cold, snow, sleet, rain or beastly high August temperatures and humidity, to get themselves out of their homes and into their Senior Center for a morning work out. And, every day, twice a morning and two afternoons a week, Joe leads these amazing groups, works out with them, and loves, loves, loves every minute. These are his people. He is their fitness instructor, role model and, although he would never admit it, in some cases, the "guy with the cute butt". His students range from their late sixties right straight through late eighties. His oldest is 93 and still going strong. This is not a group of old folks sitting around in a circle passing the tambourine. Not in any way, shape or form. You come to Joe's class, you stand up, move around, stretch, lift your ten pound weights, and get quite the work out. He cannot and does not make it easy. He's a master at what he does and he knows how to get the job done.
To describe the one hour routines here would be way too exhausting. I am not a current student, shame on me. I keep promising that I will return to classes but being the woman behind the Master often precludes regular attendance. Someone has to keep the home fires burning, doesn't one? Ahem....
Some kids love gym class and some find it to be their own personal horror show. School-aged kids have a way of ruining weeks at a time for their classmates who are not what they consider the same as everyone else. If you are not up to their prescribed standard of height or weight, you become the target for so many worded and wordless attacks. Yes, there was bullying way back when. It's just that nothing was done about it and educators oftentimes were part of the hurtful process. Some kids were jocks and some, not. my husband was not. And he was not until years later when it was I who suggested that he find a gym that would help alleviate the stress that his older sister's terminal illness had thrust upon him. Reluctantly, he started regular visits to the YMCA in White Plains, New York and once he started, he never stopped.
An early retirement which allowed him to become the onsite manager for a major home renovation at his mother's, also allowed time to rethink life, the one still ahead of him. It was a very wise adult daughter who put pieces together, urging her youthful looking, fit and personality-blessed father to use his time wisely and study the rigorous course that would lead to a certification in Personal Training with a specialty in Senior Fitness. "Dad, what a role model you are" are the words that launched a Renaissance and the rest is history.
This is a man who never stops trying to beat his own personal best. There's not a Sunday evening when he isn't preparing for the week ahead, giving his students new programs, more challenges, better music, more opportunities for their own personal renaissance.
Joe's is a great story, one that should be told to the masses. He's a "Senior Citizen" a "Baby Boomer" who does something extraordinary. He helps people, for the most part, older than himself, to feel their youth again, to realize that they still have potential, vitality and the ability to change those things in their lives that they may not have thought possible. Interesting to note here, there is a monthly publication here on the Cape, called "PrimeTime". It is a magazine supplement to the Cape Cod Times newspaper. It has a target market, Baby Boomers and above, with featured articles intended to showcase "active senior citizens". In skimming though the pages every month, I've found advertisements for funeral services, nursing homes, assisted living properties, nursing services for keeping Mom and Dad at home and other services which remind the reader that life is tough and you need all the help you can get. When I contacted the editor and told her that Joe has a story that would grab her readers, a perfect fit for her magazine, guess what she replied.....
"Our target market is the fifty-somethings, the people next-door. He's too old for our readers"
I'm not sure what you're thinking, but I know what I am thinking. One man who seized an opportunity and made a difference not only in his life but in the lives of almost one hundred others to date, versus, one woman who passed up an opportunity to have impacted on thousands. Once again, Joe Guardino, you are a winner!!!
Oh, and just a tiny post script here....if you are interested in reading more about a couple of fifty-somethings who make little dolls out of dryer lint or about a woman who realized her life's dream to have an apartment decorated exclusively in the color turquoise with silver and white accents, I know just the magazine for you.