Nothing stopped Sam and Bess Greco of Palatine from attending their oldest grandson's wedding on Saturday in Milwaukee. Certainly not their health.
Although Sam turned 90 in March and Bess is 85, both are in good health and more than up to the challenge of attending a wedding and getting out on the dance floor. Heck, that's nothing compared to their regimen three mornings a week.
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Both are regulars in the Healthy Living Exercise Program at Harper College. They arrive at 6:45 a.m. for their class and work on cardio exercises and weight training for strengthening benefits.
"I feel out of balance if I don't come," says Sam, a retired auditor for Continental Can Co.
The couple has been coming since 1985, or nearly since the beginning of the fitness center, which originally opened as part of a cardiac rehabilitation program.
"We had an exercise bike," said Bess, a homemaker, "but we were looking for something more to do that would keep us going."
In recent years, the class has broadened to include more than people with heart problems. Its members range in age from fortysomethings to octogenarians, like the Grecos and Jim Ostler of Arlington Heights, who turned 90 last year.
"I needed the exercise, but it was more than that," said Ostler who started coming in his 80s. "It's the friendship and camaraderie. When you get to be of a certain age, you don't meet many new people. This is where it happens."
The class is designed to build up and maintain core muscles, said instructor Vickie Scott, and keep members physically fit. They typically warm up with hand weights, stretches and leg work before moving to the gym or fitness center for more cardio workouts.
"They are making a decision to stay healthy and active, and they do it on a regular basis," Scott says of her students. "Being active helps your cognition, memory and everything else."
The Grecos make good ambassadors for the program. On Thursday, Sam worked on the treadmill, wearing a Harper T-shirt that read, "You've Got to Move to Improve."
"It's definitely helped," she said. "Plus, we're done by 8 a.m. and we have the rest of our day to attend meetings and do what we have to do."
This week is the last of this session, but the class starts up again on Aug. 22, at the beginning of the fall term. It will be held again in three sections, including 6:45 and 8 a.m. and at 5 p.m. three days a week and offered through the Continuing Education Department.
Harper officials say it is among a long list of options for the fall Lifelong Learning Institute course list. Launched in 2003, the institute is geared to people 55 and older and boasts more than 500 noncredit courses in a host of subject areas, from history and art, to science, philosophy and music.
What makes the Healthy Living exercise program so unique, Harper officials say, is its makeup. Scott says 18 students in the program are 80 or older, or about one-third of the total enrollment.