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Zest For Life - Rocking The 80s At The Gym
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Oakdale senior and Fitness Plus regular, Joanne Parker, 84 demonstrates a deep lunge at the direction of gym owner Corinne Machado-Ching. Parker attends a number of the classes offered at the gym, including the Silver Sneakers class with her husband Bill. - photo by Teresa Hammond/The Leader


Life is not being wasted on Bill and Joanne Parker. At the ages of 85 (Bill) and 84 (Joanne), this couple did not wait for New Year’s Day to make a resolution or begin a new health plan. On Jan. 2, 2015 the couple could be found in the same place they were on Dec. 31, 2014 … putting in some time at Fitness Plus in Oakdale.

The Parkers are not a couple sitting around reflecting on the good ol’ days, much to the contrary they are making and living the most of each and every day regardless of the number of candles on their birthday cakes.

Theirs is undeniably a love story. Celebrating 64 years of marriage last November and a total of 66 years as a couple, Bill and Joanne share a lifetime of memories. A sliver of those 66 years have been spent in the company of their peers at the gym.

The Parkers have been members of the local gym since first relocating to Oakdale in 1993, when Bill retired. It was a transition prompted by Joanne’s love of horses and the couple’s fond family memories at Woodward Reservoir.

“We bought five acres near the reservoir,” Joanne said. “Bill designed a log home and that’s where we still live today.

“He’d never been to the gym before,” she said of her husband prior to retirement.

“I never had the time to go to the gym before,” the retired flight engineer offered. “I knew it was a healthy thing to do.”

Prior to retirement, Bill shared he enjoyed spending time with his family and taking motorcycle trips around the country with Joanne.

“We’ve taken the bike as far as Alaska,” he said. “I rode from the time I was 17 until just a few years ago. Yep. When I was 83 we decided maybe it was time to stop riding.”

Joanne has been physically active her entire life. Among her many past accomplishments were polo horses, ladies softball, team tennis and an early career as a professional synchronized swimmer.

“Gosh it’s hard to remember all the things,” Joanne admits.

“These are things you did before we were married,” Bill stated as Joanne reminisced.

The engineer’s wife shared she’s always had a love of being active. As Bill put in long hours and traveled extensively during his career, she maintained a steady fitness routine.

“You don’t have to exhaust yourself,” Joanne said of being active, “but I’m competitive so I exhaust myself.”

Not to be mistaken as an overstatement, gym owner and instructor Corinne Machado-Ching marvels at the 84-year-old’s physical ability.

“This woman lunges like no one else,” Machado-Ching said. “You should see her jump rope. I swear to you, the way she works the jump rope she makes it look easy.

“She does things women half her age can’t do. She works out hard,” Machado-Ching continued. “She gives me 110 percent ... actually 150 percent. She really amazes me.”

Bill and Joanne Parker began visiting Fitness Plus three times a week. Now with the addition of the Silver Sneakers class, the couple makes the gym a part of their routine five days a week.

“Corinne does a special class for the seniors,” Bill stated. “I wear silver slippers.”

Chuckling wife Joanne corrects, “Sneakers, Bill ... sneakers.”

“When she’s in the other classes, I’m on the bike,” husband Bill continued. “I put in an hour to 45 minutes on the bike every day.”

Previously, Bill said he used the treadmill for quite a while but then started having some trouble with one of his knees, so trainer Bryan Ching suggested he go to the bike.

“Corinne also gave him some exercises to do at home,” Joanne said of Bill’s knee strengthening. “Every day, just like clockwork he gets down and does those exercises.”

But as many scoff at the time it takes to get to the gym or turn their morning alarm clock off and reset their intent for tomorrow, these two wake up and lace up.

“It’s the thing to do,” Bill said of staying active and limber. “It’s just a five mile trip from our home, what’s the big deal?

“I really try and take care of myself, because I want to last,” he added.

As wife Joanne reflects upon their life as Mr. and Mrs., she shared a story of losing a dog in the early 1980s when the pet ‘aged out’ – in Joanne’s words. It was a passing which prompted her to tell her son, she was done with pets. No more. ‘Aging out’ animals was just too difficult. So their son suggested a pet which would outlive them – a parrot.

Echo the parrot continues to live happily with the Parkers.

“We want to stay healthy and keep limber,” Joanne said. “We don’t just want to sit and age out like the animals. We want to be like the parrot.”