Jean Weller, 94 and still going strong, thanks to the Y

Jean Weller with friends at the Brandywine YMCA in Chester County, PA

It was 30 years ago when Jean Weller finally gave in and said yes to her friend Betty. Betty had been pestering Jean to join her at the Brandywine YMCA, and when Jean finally said yes, it was mainly just to get Betty “off her back.” She has been there ever since and now, at 94 years young, Jean is the oldest member of the Brandywine YMCA.

At 94, Jean admits it is a little tougher to move around, but she wouldn’t be doing nearly as well without the Y. “It keeps me moving!” she proclaims. 

Working Out

Jean recently moved into an assisted living residence, and can now get to the Y through their transportation service, or one of her friends, like 89-year-old Eleanor Sauler, who will pick her up.

Jean, Eleanor and a couple more friends, including 86 year old Jessica Young meet at the Brandywine Y three times as week as part of their regular routine. They do a 45 minute aerobics class followed by 30 minutes in the therapy pool. Jean has arthritis in her knees, so she recently switched from the water class in the main pool to the therapy pool because of the warmth. “I’m a little more brittle than I used to be,” says Jean with a sly grin.

Their aerobics class is led by the indomitable Maureen “Mo” Collins. The popular class generally has about 30 students in it, men and women, over half of whom are over 70, and nearly all of whom are over 60.

Mo doesn’t take it easy on her students. “And we wouldn’t want her to … usually!” says Eleanor with a chuckle. 

“My job is to just keep them all going,” says Mo. She works all their muscles, helping them with balance, toning muscles and even teaching ways to get up in case they ever happen to fall.

Forming Strong Bonds

The friends met at the Brandywine Y more than 10 years ago and formed a strong bond. The bond extends to life outside the Y as well, as they meet for games of rummy cube and even take an annual vacation at a Pocono retreat house. 

The friendship shows as they share stories and even finish each other’s thoughts. 

“The workouts, aerobics and pool are good,” says Jean, “but it is the socialization … ” 

“We support each other,” chimes in Eleanor. 

“Yes, it’s really about the camaraderie and friendship,” finishes Jessica. 

A few years ago Jean went to visit her friend Betty, who was not doing well and has since passed. Jean was wearing one of her Y shirts. “Betty took one look at my shirt … I didn’t even realize I had a Y shirt on … and she said, ‘Are you still at the Y?’” recalls Jean. She paused and continued, “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Y.”