AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Members of the Mauch Chunk Museum Gerinastics class, standing on the balance beam. From left, Janet Drury, John Drury, Neil Bogen, Mary Bogen, Mary Stevenson and Bob Stevenson.
Here's a new word made up just for this article gerinastics a combination of the words geriatrics and gymnastics. It's a field being created by a super senior who teaches seniors to be super.
That super senior is John Drury, who at 80 years old can still pull some gymnastic moves from his ancient bag of tricks, and who after retiring from a 50-year practice as a physical therapist is giving back to the community by running a physical fitness class for seniors.
Sessions are held twice weekly, on Mondays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. in the Mauch Chunk Museum ballroom, 24 Broadway in Jim Thorpe. The sessions are free and open to the public, and people of all ages and in all conditions are invited.
"All you have to do is show up," Drury said.
"When I was home, I practiced my exercise routine," Drury explained. "I was usually alone. Sometimes my wife watched. Sometimes she did some of the exercises."
John wanted to give back to the community. Many people known him as a local preservationist; others know him as a retired physical therapist.
"Whether it's old buildings or old people," he said. "I like to fix things."
"I started it to stay in shape myself. Then I thought, maybe there are others that could benefit from it. With my background and the feeling that if you have something to share, then you should share it. It's a spiritual thing."
"It's different from my own personal work out," said participant Neil Bogen. "First of all its social. I have a gym in my attic, my man cave where I work out. But it's more fun to work out with people you know. When you work out by yourself, it's hard to keep yourself interested. When you workout with others, you joke around while you are improving your physical well-being."
"As you get older, you start you lose your strength, endurance, balance and agility," Drury said. If you exercise, after a few days, you have forgotten how bad it used to hurt. So you do it again. Then you have a great feeling. You are doing things to maintain your own health plus you have a bit of social interaction. Everyone seems to be smiling."
Drury started as a gymnast in junior high school in 1946. He competed in gymnastics in high school and college, and in 1954, graduated from Temple University with a degree in education with a major in health and physical education. He received certification in physical therapy from Cleveland Clinic in 1957, and worked 50 years as a licensed physical therapist in Pennsylvania in various settings, mostly geriatrics.
Drury was working with seniors when many of his current seniors were still in high school.
Drury's workout begins with a walk around the ballroom, with those willing and able picking up the pace to a jog. This is followed with a series of back strengthening and flexibility mat exercises. He has equipment such as a balance beam, a flexible abdominal chair, an inclined weight bench, and a vertical knee raise station.
One exercise that is close to Drury's heart, he calls "skip jumping." As part of his personal recovery following surgery, Drury designed an exercise program to strengthen his ankle, knee and hip extensor musculature.
"I settled on an aggressive form of skipping, which emphasizes the leaping aspect of typical skipping. It consists of leaping off one foot, and returning to the same foot, then repeating the same with the other leg in constant succession.
"Skip jumping is a direct, but controlled, attack against the force of gravity man's lifetime combatant especially troublesome for most as one reaches the sixth and higher decades. This contest with gravity, using skip jumping as a weapon, has been an exhilarating experience for me. I believe it has put 'spring in my step' and given me the feeling of being 'light on my feet,'" added Drury.
"A flight of stairs was a challenge. After one year, I could run up a flight two steps at a time."
Now Drury is spreading the word, starting with his wife, Janet, who attends the sessions and is finding that is it is improving her strength and balance. As a joke, for Christmas John bought Janet a T-shirt that said, "I huffed and I puffed and I got up and out of the chair."