March 8, 2019

Centenarian Exerciser Finds No Place Like UAMS

Charlotte Cone

Charlotte Cone

A physically active lifestyle has been a hallmark of Charlotte Cone’s 100 years.

A regular walker and tender of flower and vegetable gardens even into her advanced years, she made it a point to stay fit. The daily walks and gardening may be history, but she believes regular exercise at the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging has been the key to maintaining her strength.

“It’s important to me; I think it gives me the energy I need to get going every day,” Cone said.

Cone, of Little Rock, became a regular at the institute’s Ottenheimer Fitness Center after breaking her hip four years ago. Today she is the only centenarian of the 500-plus members at the fitness center, although there are at least a dozen members who are in their mid to late 90s.

“She’s amazing; she comes two to three days a week and works on all the machines,” said UAMS’ Sheery Woods, an exercise specialist at the Ottenheimer Fitness Center. “Everybody knows her and loves her.”

Woods said a steady diet of physical activity is what keeps the elderly going.

“For people who want to maintain their physical independence for as long as possible, exercise is the answer,” Woods said. “Mrs. Cone is the perfect example – she was completely independent until her late 90s.”

Woods leads classes that improve balance, strength and relieve joint stiffness.

“We do a lot of balance exercises, and as we age we need strengthening exercises to prevent osteoporosis, which a lot of our members are worried about,” she said.

Woods also leads chair exercise classes for patients who can no longer stand on their own. The chair exercises enable cardiovascular and strength training.

“Another component of our center is the opportunity for socialization, which is also important to a person’s overall well-being,” she said.

Membership is open to anyone age 50 and older, and as a community center, the monthly cost is just $35. In addition to the fitness center in the Institute on Aging, members have access to an indoor heated pool a block away at the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute.

“Our program includes some really awesome classes at the pool, too,” Woods said.

Cone, the mother of three boys, could go to a fitness center closer to home, but she insists on coming to the Ottenheimer Fitness Center, where she can be found two or three days a week.

“I just love it here,” she said. “It has everything I need.”

To learn more about the Ottenheimer Fitness Center at UAMS, call 501-526-5770.