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My grandma was the best. When I think back to my childhood, she was always there and took pride in being a present grandma. I don’t remember that she was super fit, but she was definitely active: As a kid, I never worried about whether she could keep up — it was just a given she would — and the adventures we took together created great memories. Now, I wonder what her regimen was when we weren’t around: How did she stay healthy for us?

Now, I’m a mom, and I see how much my grandma’s values are instilled in my mom. It’s so important for her to be with her grandkids, though she has to drive 1,000 miles instead of 5 miles to be with us. She spent the first six months of my return-to-work from maternity leave watching over my daughter. At 62, she was bouncing, chasing, lifting, rocking (in a car seat), swinging — essentially the everyday functional necessities of caring for a baby.

And just like when I was a kid with my grandma, when I left in the morning, I didn’t question if she’d keep up — it was a given because I was depending on her.

Through the years, I’ve seen my mom try many different workouts, which always had a social dynamic to them. When I was growing up, for instance, we attended Jazzercise (an aerobic studio dance class) together. Over time, she discovered a love of outdoor walking, which was made even better if it meant meeting up with her friends to walk and catch up.

When I began working at Life Time, she took the advice of a good friend and joined the Mason, Ohio, club. She jumped right into the Aqua classes and found a great fit with a low-impact water workout that challenged her in a fun community.

Then the pandemic hit and shook up life for my parents: They moved two hours away to be closer to family, but it took them farther from my mom’s everyday friends and her Life Time community. She put her membership on hold and, like many of us, became more sedentary.

Soon after, she sustained a knee injury, that doctors advised addressing with surgery; she opted for physical therapy instead. Despite that support, my mom was fearful of a return to an active routine and fell into a workout rut. My dad and I really wanted to see her back in action — not just for the physical benefits, but also because of the social benefits that come with the activities she enjoys.

Eventually, she talked to her doctor and with encouragement from all of us, decided to return to Life Time. She joined the Dublin club in Columbus, and though she knew nobody, she returned to her class of choice in Aqua.

Did it matter that she knew no one? Not a bit! While it was initially intimidating for my mom to attend by herself, she quickly connected with the instructors and a loyal, enthusiastic community that welcomed her.

My mom is committed to staying active through this format multiple times a week; she has also found her favorite instructors, like Peggy in our Minnesota clubs, so she can keep her routine up when she visits us. Her knee injury ultimately wasn’t a setback to building back the strength and cardio endurance she needs.

My dad is so proud of how she has reprioritized her health, and she has made new friends who she looks forward to seeing every week.

I’ll admit, I have worked at Life Time for years and I truly had no idea this fantastic Aqua community existed until recently. I’ve now attended Aqua classes with my mom and across multiple clubs — and they are amazing workouts among even greater company.

My mom has found her community, her class, her place, all of which supports not only her physical well-being, but her emotional and social health, too. I feel so grateful that she has all of this — and can only hope that others also discover how Life Time and, more recently, ARORA, can help people of all ages move, connect, and feel their best.

More importantly, like my grandma did for me, my mom is setting an amazing example of health, wellness, active living, and presence for my kids. I’m so fortunate and proud to follow in both of their footsteps.

Annie Kragness
Annie Kragness

Annie Kragness is the program director and co-founder of ARORA, Life Time’s community supporting healthy living for older adults.

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