99-year-old Westminster lady celebrates her birthday at the gym

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Great-grandmother Kathleen Scanlon from Westminster, exercises twice a week and the fact her 99th birthday fell on a gym day at Porchester Hall didn’t change her routine. No-one was surprised to see Kathleen at her regular Open Age session – but she was surprised when the Everyone Active fitness team brought in a cake to mark the occasion.

“The birthday cake was a complete surprise – I had no idea they were going to do this. It made the day very special,” says Kathleen. “I exercise twice a week and do one session in the gym using the machines and the other session doing chair-based exercises with the Open Age group at Stowe Centre,” she says.

Open Age is a charity that champions an active life for older people to sustain their physical and mental health. Within Westminster this includes delivering over 100 hours of weekly activity across various community venues in the borough including two ‘Begin to Gym’ sessions at Porchester Hall, which is run by Everyone Active in partnership with Westminster City Council

Kathleen has lived in Westminster since she was 16. She has three daughters, three granddaughters and two great granddaughters and was very happily married for 40 years before losing her husband 28 years ago. She started exercising when she retired from her job as a chamber maid 14 years ago at the age of 85.

“I’ve had two hip replacements which feel fine, but I’ve had a bad back for years,” says Kathleen. “I’ve been everywhere and tried everything but find that exercise is what helps it most: my back still aches a bit but nothing like as bad as it was.

“Everyone should go to the gym and exercise,” says Kathleen. “I have to push myself some days to go but it’s always worth it. My advice is don’t sit back when you retire: get up, get going and get out! I tell everyone I meet how important it is – even the nice people on the bus the other day who gave up their seat to me on my way home from the gym. They said they thought I looked a bit tired. ‘Well I am,’ I told them. ‘I’ve just been to the gym!’ You should have seen their faces!”

Cllr Iain Bott, Westminster City Council Cabinet Member for Culture, Sports and Community said: “Kathleen is an amazing inspiration to us all and living proof that you can never be too old to start exercising. Our leisure centres offer something for everyone regardless of age or ability, so I hope people will feel inspired to take Kathleen’s lead in enjoying a more active life.”

Simon Plummer, General Manager at Porchester Leisure Centre said; “Kathleen is a delightful member and a familiar face. It’s wonderful she started with us aged 85 after hearing about our partnership with Open Age. Kathleen is a lovely lady and it was our pleasure to arrange a cake to celebrate her 99th birthday after her workout. It was smiles all round.”

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