Margaret Almond is 104 years old - and doing Pilates

By Scott K MacLeod

In a narrow hallway, a woman grips a wooden bar and bounces up and down on wiry legs. She rocks backwards and forwards. She raises her arms over her head, and she slides this way and that along the carpeted floor.

She is 104-year-old Margaret Almond, and she is building strength in her limbs.

"I want to walk again and am trying to make my legs stronger," she explains.

She has had falls in the past, so she'll need all the strength she can muster.

A physiotherapist says, "Do you want to get your knees up?"

Mrs Almond does so.

We are at the Radius Matua rest home in Tauranga, where Mrs Almond's sprightliness is the envy of some much younger residents.

Physiotherapist Andrea Wirihana rates Mrs Almond a 10 out of 10 in the energy stakes.

"We couldn't believe it when she started doing this," she says.

"Margaret just went for it."

Mrs Almond was originally from Christchurch but has spent several decades in the upper North Island, working as a nurse in Kaeo, Kawakawa and Auckland until retiring about 40 years ago. Her only surviving relative is a son who sold a kiwifruit orchard in Te Puke to retire to Papamoa.

A photographer says he wants to shoot a video.

"Oh," Mrs Almond says. "How awful."

But she quickly agrees to repeat some of her exercises and to strike a pose or two.

Activities co-ordinator Klara Luxford-Rulisek offers words of encouragement. She seems pleased with her charge's progress.

"I don't have any other 100-plus-year-olds as active as her," she says.

Apparently, the home has four other centenarians.

Mrs Almond doesn't have great hearing but mostly gets by without wearing glasses. She enjoys concerts, restaurant meals and singing. Her exercise regime is mixed, and includes a bit of Pilates.

It would seem that Mrs Almond is close to being able to walk, given the vigour with which she bounces in and out of her chair.

Does she expect to reach her goal?

"Yes," she says.

"If I live long enough."

- NZ Herald

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