Bensenville centenarian Ellie Leveen inspires those around her

  • Keeping in shape at age 102, Bensenville's Ellie Leveen, center, often joins in group fitness classes, like this chair yoga class at Wood St. Fitness.

    Keeping in shape at age 102, Bensenville's Ellie Leveen, center, often joins in group fitness classes, like this chair yoga class at Wood St. Fitness. Courtesy of Bensenville Park District

 
 
Updated 4/22/2022 6:26 PM

A resident of unincorporated Bensenville since 1954, Eleanor "Ellie" Leveen is many things: mother to two, grandmother to five, great-grandmother to eight, volunteer operator of a Masonic lending closet, active gardener, fitness enthusiast and -- at 102 years of age -- the face of the Bensenville Park District's Young at Heart program.

The Young at Heart program brings people together of a similar generation to share stories, discover old friends, make new friends, create a support network, and experience new or familiar activities such as meals; bingo; card, dice or tile games; movies; day trips and overnight trips.

 

"She shines bright. Ellie has been on a number of trips and is a regular at 'Lunch Bunch and Bingo,'" says Recreation Supervisor Trent Grossman, who oversees the Young at Heart program, noting Leveen has also taken many park-district-sponsored trips over the years, including local trips to area restaurants and attractions. "She never lets anything get in the way of being exactly who she wants to be."

"I've always been active in my church and with the leisure center," Leveen says, proudly noting she's been taking part in programs at the Deer Grove Leisure Center since it opened in 1989. She says her favorite activity was a White Pines golf league she participated in for more than 10 years. "I was never a great athlete in any size, shape or form. I just got up there and did the best I could."

These days, Laveen can often be found participating in a group fitness class since purchasing the Wood Street Fitness annual core class pass, which allows unlimited participation in group classes such as Zumba, several types of yoga, core classes, TRX, cardio, cycling and more for a $300 annual fee.

"Ellie lights up the room with her sweet smile every time she walks into the studio for class," says Fitness Program Supervisor Silvia Acevedo, who has known Leveen since she started teaching core classes in 2018. "She walks in -- always smiling and cute with full makeup and perfect hair -- always with a positive attitude to take care of her body despite the arthritis in her hands."

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Leveen admits she was hesitant to resume her workouts after the pandemic. "I hadn't been very active, and I was afraid with my advanced age that it would be very difficult for me. But the teachers made it very easy for me; they're very kind and considerate and they work along with me and help me," she explains. "I think that's very important because you don't have to feel like an outsider just to come in on your own and start something like that. Everybody in the group is very cooperative. Everybody is happy to help you."

"People gravitate toward her. She is an inspiration to all of us in class, and there's great camaraderie with her and our other active adults" Acevedo adds, noting Leveen lives in the present, embracing and enjoying each day. "She won't stop, and she won't give up; she's a true example of how to overcome obstacles, forget about excuses and take care of her body no matter what. That sets the tone for the entire class, including me."

Leveen offers this advice to stay young at heart: "Keep involved in things that are going on. I mean, you don't necessarily have to run, so you just keep involved in it. That's keeping active; doing exercises and things like that are very important."

For more information about the Young-at-Heart program, visit BvilleParks.org.org/programs/young-at-heart.

Wood Street Fitness membership information and class schedules can be found at WoodStFitness.com. To register, visit the Deer Grove Leisure Center, 1000 W. Wood St., from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.

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