LAKELAND, Fla. — Laverne Austin was afraid she’d walk into the Lakeland Family YMCA and see snacks and balloons.
Sure enough, she did.
“(They) knew how old I was,” she said.
Laverne posed for photos in a glittery pink birthday hat. She even wore it in the pool for her water aerobics class. At 98, all eyes tend to find an energetic senior.
“She’s very active and a little more outgoing than the others,” said Sandra Austin, who has worked at the YMCA for 30 years. “She’s very loving and she loves to be around all of her other peers in the class and she told me that she wants to keep moving because when you keep moving, you stop.”
Laverne rarely misses an Aqua Fit class. For eight years, she’s shown up like clockwork.
Even Tuesday morning, unable to get in the water because of a leg wound that required a thick bandage, she still showed up to participate in the class from the pool deck in her jeans and tennis shoes.
Her determination to make it to class – even nearing a century old – inspires people in and out of the pool.
“She can do some of the exercises better than some of the younger ones,” said Colleen Kolar, who has been leading the water aerobics classes twice per week for seven years. “She’s just an inspiration.”
A friend invited the then-90-year-old Laverne. She came, tried it and never left. Now, after eight years of exercise, she says those 45-minute workouts are the highlights of her week.
“Friendship,” she said when asked about the best part of her experience.
Laverne still drives herself to the pool. She just got her driver’s license renewed. It won’t expire until she is 104 years old.
"I would say she's the perfect little grandma for all of us out here," Austin said.
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