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Grow by degrees
FRAN WITTMANN of Folsom, California, believes in
living life to the fullest no matter the age. “Aging ... is
the greatest opportunity to explore our gifts, our
humanity, our wisdom and our potential to
grow beyond previously conceived
limitations of ourselves and society’s
negative images of old age,” she says.
As a child growing up in
Scotland, Wittmann was devastated when she found out a
placement test determined that,
unlike her siblings, she was bound
for trade school instead of college
preparatory school. She dropped
out of school at 15 years old,
completing high school only when
her family immigrated to the United
States. Challenged in college by what
was then an undiagnosed learning
disorder, she soon dropped out.
At age 57, armed with the knowledge and
Give life a twirl
strategies to help her work around her disability,
she earned her bachelor’s in social science with
concentrations in psychology and
gerontology at age 62, and her
master’s in theater arts with
concentrations in theater and
directing at age 64.
In addition to subsequent
acting roles on stage and in
independent film, last year
the 66-year-old began her
newest career, with Covered
California, a health insurance
exchange. Working as a
full-time program technician,
she applies her interest in
education and her passion for
successful, healthy aging. “There
is no need to slow down intellectu-
ally, creatively, emotionally or spiritu-
ally,” she says. “Why should we?”—CG
BRENTWOOD, TENNESSEE, Costco member
Barbara Young started baton twirling at the age of 5.
When she reached high school she got serious about
it, performing and competing through college.
When Young was in her 60s, her doctor suggested she needed more physical activity. So she
picked up her baton again. “This is good exercise. It’s
good aerobic exercise, and it’s good for balance and
stretching,” she says.
Young next put together a group of like-minded
women calling themselves A+ Twirlers (www.aplus
twirlers.com). “Most of us are over 65. The oldest
one is 72. And I am 67,” she says.
The women get together a couple of times a
week, or more, to work on their routines. “We prac-
tice for a couple of hours or until we give out,
whichever comes first,” Young says, adding that they
attend competitions and events for twirlers around
She adds that, aside from the physical
exercise, twirling adds to mental agility as
well. “To do a routine, you have to be focused
on a lot of details. Like a dancer has to think
through all the moves, so does a twirler.”
Young notes, “We’re not trying to be teenagers.
We’re trying to be ourselves. It just happens that
we’re doing an activity that many teenagers enjoy
I'm 81 years old, with
emphysema, asthma and
bronchitis. I did my first
marathon at age 56,
December 1988 in Honolulu,
and my last one June 2014,
in San Diego. This was my
53rd marathon. I firmly
believe exercise is most
important to staying healthy
and living a long life.
The A+ Twirlers, founded
by Costco member Barbara
Young (far right, lying
down), have discovered
a new twist to exercising.