Twice a week, Charlotte Blumstein drives from her Margate home to the Tamarac Fitness Center to lift weights, pull on a rope for resistance training and stretch and bend.
She is 95.
For eight years, Blumstein has been attending the class, where she often is the first to make calls to check on another class member who has had surgery or attended a wake.
“They will tell me to sit down or ask if I’m tired,” Blumstein said of her fellow class members. “The minute I sit down, you’ll know I’m old. I don’t sit down to exercise.”
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Blumstein’s “can do” spirit has been an inspiration, said her fitness instructor, Bonnie Zipp, who teaches the Healthways SilversSneakers class, a nationwide exercise program for senior citizens. Zipp nominated Blumstein for the 10th annual Richard L. Swanson Inspiration Award, which honors a SilverSneakers member for his or her healthy lifestyle. She is one of 10 finalists nationwide.
“She never says she can’t,” Zipp added. “She just doesn’t. She is just a remarkable human being. She shines, and everyone wants to talk to her. She is so independent and self-sufficient.”
Blumstein said she began exercising when she was 16, when she was the heaviest in her life. She was 5 feet 3 inches tall and wore a size 16.
“I have a sweet tooth,” Blumstein said. “I was eating my mother’s cakes all the time.”
She began doing exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups at home. After six months, she lost the weight.
“I used to not wear a dress that is more than a size 12,” Blumstein said. “I finally allowed myself to put on a 14.”
After getting married at age 19, she began exercising at the gym for an hour every day after work in Queens, New York, where she was a bookkeeper. She participated in aerobics classes and used the weight machines.
She moved to Florida in 1978 after the death of her first husband, and continued working out. For 25 years, she walked three miles a day, whether or not she went to the gym for circuit training or water aerobics.
She stopped the walks after she began developing blot clots in her legs and her doctor warned her not to walk long distances. She was placed on Plavix, a blood-thinning medication that prevents clots. Other than vitamins, those are the only pills Blumstein takes.
She doesn’t like red meat, but enjoys chicken and fish. “I treat myself to a lamb chop once or twice a year,” said Blumstein, who has three sons, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Her favorite meal for lunch is a whole wheat English muffin with tuna fish, tofu cream cheese or lox. For dinner, she may have her soup or a low-fat frozen dinner like eggplant Parmesan, fish or chicken.
“I don’t cook anymore,” Blumstein said.
Once a week, she and a couple of friends head to a local restaurant and often eat Italian food, which she loves.
Blumstein admits she still has a sweet tooth, and allows herself a half a muffin with dinner when the mood strikes her.
“There isn’t a cake made that I don’t like,” she said.
Blumstein remains active whether she is needlepointing, hitting a casino or taking in a movie. She also enjoys online gaming, writing emails and keeping photos of her great-grandchildren on the iPad that her grandson gave her two years ago.
“It almost gave me a nervous breakdown, but I know how to use it,” Blumstein said of the iPad.
She has also volunteered and raised funds for Broward Health Coral Springs Hospital and Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach. Blumstein said she worked to raise $3million for new dialysis machines for Mount Sinai more than 30 years ago.
She credits her upbringing for her desire to give back and help others.
“From the time I was a kid my mother used to say, ‘If you see poor people and they ask for money, if you have a nickel you give them three cents,’” Blumstein said.
Blumstein said her secret to a healthy, long life is not worrying.
“You got to live life and not worry because worry doesn’t cure anything,” Blumstein said. “We all have love and tragedies. You just keep going on and you don’t let anything get in the way.
“I’m not going to be old,” Blumstein said. “I’m not going to sit and bemoan my fate, because I had a good life.”
Next on her plate: She’s looking forward to attending her grandson’s wedding in Guatemala at the end of October.
“I just can’t wait,” she said. “I’ve been very careful that nothing should happen in the next few weeks, that I shouldn’t fall or anything.”