Age may have slowed down our very fit guests, but it has not stopped them from getting out and doing what they love. As part of Colorado Matters' ongoing series on longevity and aging, this week we talk with people over 80 about how they stay healthy and vital. Not surprisingly, exercise comes first.

John Gillingham: Older Than Anyone Taking His Fitness Class

Eighty-seven-year-old fitness instructor John Gillingham.

(Courtesy John Gillingham)

Crisscrossing the seas from England to Australia and finally landing in Colorado, John Gillingham has been fit for most of his life. In the 1960s he came to Denver to work at the YMCA as part of President John F. Kennedy's fitness initiative. In the 1970s he was instrumental in creating a fitness course at Denver's Washington Park -- and you can still see evidence of it today, including step-up logs and pullup bars.

Two decades ago Gillingham retired. But six months after that, the boredom set in and so he returned to work with the Colorado Athletic Club in the Denver Tech Center, teaching an outdoor fitness class. His students vary in age and fitness level, but any exercise that Gillingham dreams up for his students -- often in a local park where sweeping hills and benches look to him like gym equipment -- he also performs himself. 

Nancy Eldridge: Still Going On Epic Bike Rides

Bill and Nancy Eldridge recently completed a five-day bicycling trek in Vermont. Nancy Eldridge is 83.

(Courtesy of Terri Davis)

 

Nancy Eldridge, of Evergreen, just returned from a five-day bike expedition in Vermont. She teaches yoga regularly and is in love with pickleball. A couple of years back she entered the Miss Colorado Senior USA pageant and danced to Neil Diamond. For Eldridge, 83, it's all about being healthy.

But she wasn't always as mindful about it as she is now. In her 40s, though she was a long-time tennis player, she smoked and drank often. Then a job doing social work at a nursing home changed her.

"I saw all these people that were tied up to oxygen tanks and I saw what could happen when you don't take care of yourself, and that was kind of a wake-up call for me," Eldridge says.

Another positive influence on her health, she says, was her husband, new at the time. Bill Eldridge is a very fit runner, and he accompanied Nancy on her recent ride through Vermont.

Ken Wright: It's About Finishing, Not Being Fast

Ken Wright, 86, at a recent national championship running race.

(Courtesy of Ken Wright)

 

Many of the members of the Boulder Road Runners club are in their 60s. But they're the young ones compared to a handful of athletes in their 80s, including Ken Wright, who works as an engineer and gets out on the trail every chance he gets. 

He began running at the age of 50 because it made him feel good. "I was having trouble sleeping and feeling too much tension over my work," he says. "When I ran, I found that I ended up feeling much better and eliminated tension and stress." 

Wright is now 86 and likes entering races. It's nice to get a trophy, he says, but "the main thing is to keep doing it so that you can cross that finish line. That's the ultimate goal. Not speed." 

He recently broke his hip, but that's not stopping him. Wright says he may walk his next race. 

Audio for this story will be available after noon.