Live long and die healthy: How a group of Winnipeggers are working to live to 116 with a focus on fun, fitness – CBC.ca

Nestor Mudryswears he will not relinquishthe presidency of the 116 Club as long as he lives.

And if he hits his goal, that will be at least another 18 years.

On this day, the 98-year-old's throneis a recumbent cross-trainer think astationary bike and elliptical machinerolled into one at the Reh-Fit Centre, a Winnipeg gym and wellness centre.

But he doesn't rule his subjects with an iron fist. He's quitecomfortable with his workout pals, cracking jokes at his own expense.

"You've never given me any good reasons to why you've lived till 98," says fellow gym-goer Dean Doerr, quizzingMudry on the buzz around his club atthe Reh-Fit Centre.

"It's because I'm stubborn," Mudryquips.

The 116 Club believes in seniority. Mudry is the president sincehe'sthe oldest, and he expects to hold the mantle for awhile.

The 116 Club is a group of spry fitness enthusiasts, mostly seniors, with the arguably lofty goal of living until116 years old the age of the oldest living persontoday, Japan's Kane Tanaka.

While the executive saysthat's the goal, most members aren't really gunning for such longevity.

Hitting 116 is "probably beyond the reach of most of us, but hey, if you're going to do something worthwhile, you strive for things that are beyond your grasp," said Allan Appel, who handles the club's public relations. "That's what we're doing."

The members say they would settle for living a good, independent lifeas long as possible.

"Die healthy" is the group's slogan.

"It's a little strange, but it makes you think,"Appel, a retired teacher, says of theirtwo-word mantra.

"It'sall part of the tongue-in-cheek effort that this group has to keep the spirits up."

Appel describes the club as a goodwill group of peoplepromoting their own health. Aside from membership at the Reh-Fit Centre, there's no cost orcommitment beyond apledge to live, eat and sleep well.

"If you are going to join, you'll partakein the humour and theirony of it all,"Appelexplains.

Another perk of membership iscake, he says.

Meet some of the members of the 116 Club:

Every three months, members celebrate the birthdays of anyone who is oneyear closer to 116.

Those eventslook more likethe kind of celebration you might expect to see for the club members' grandchildren.

During one such party, a "Happy Birthday" banner is strung up in the lobby of the Reh-Fit. Thereare seniors wearing matchingwhite shirts with the number "116" in blue lettering. On top of a balloon-printed tablecloth isa large slab cake, with the names of 17 celebrantsandcandles for each of them.

It's all in good fun, Appel says.

"What's the point of being healthy if you aren't treating yourself every once in a while?"

The genesisfor this club was with executive directorAbuMasood, 72. His grandfather died at 106, and Masooddecided he wanted to live 10 years longer than him.

His personal goal became a collective one at the Reh-Fit Centre, after he founded the116 Clublast summer.

"That's my motive of life. I want to make people healthy eat good, sleep good, make your life good," Masood said."If your health is good, youhave everything."

Not everybody can join. He looks for thepeopleworking out regularly at the gym, like him.

"Before I take membership, I keep an eye.Who iscoming regularly?ThenI approachthem," Masood said.

"Do they love keeping healthy?Thoseare the people. Not the 'once in awhile, once a month I show up.'"

He pays for the 116shirts and the birthday cake out of his own pocket.

He envisions his club, which now has 76 members and counting, as analternativeto the health-care system alone dealing with an aging population.

Masood knows exercise cannot prevent every medical ailment, but he says ithelps. One clubmember, he says, took the"die healthy" mantra to heart after their mother-in-law became ill and needed constant supervision.

"He says, 'Abu, now I got what you mean by die healthy. If my mother-in-law was healthy, we would have been free from a lot of things,'" Masood said.

He hopes the concept for the club can be expanded elsewhere, and wantsto apply for grants to help cover thegroup's expenses.

The 116 Club's members say it's made a difference in their lives.

Reisa Adelmanhas been going to the gym for years, but says she now feels a sense of belonging thanks to thegroup.

"He includes all these people who were just on their own," she says of Masood, while going through herdumbbell exercises.

"People like Abu make it even better."

On a nearby resistance machine, Appelis fidgeting with how much weight hecan lift.

"I set the dials to a much higher level so the people after me are impressed," he jokes, beforeshiftingto a back extension machine.

It's obvious helikes the camaraderieamong members of the 116 Club.

"Do I look good, taking a break?" he asks another gym-goer wearing a 116 shirt.

"Everybody looks good taking a break," Jim Wallace replies, without missing a beat. At 87, walking around the track is his workout of choice.

People don't like talking about death, club presidentMudry hasnoticed. He appreciates that the 116 Club doesn't shy away from the subject.

"We thought we'd face the whole issue head-on and say, 'We think that death is inevitable, so let's do all we can to make it as pleasant an experience as we can.'"

He says that for him,living until 116 is an "eventuality." Mudry is so confident, in fact, that he'sbeen asking the club what happens after that.

Their reply?

"Well, if you get to be 116 and to 117, we will then change the name to the 117 Club."

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Live long and die healthy: How a group of Winnipeggers are working to live to 116 with a focus on fun, fitness - CBC.ca

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