Fit For Life

Fit for Life at Penn Highlands Clearfield Helps Seniors Stay Active

Don't tell Fred Guarino or Dick Gabrielson to "act their age."

If they did, they might not engage in the activities they enjoy, like exercising, hunting, camping and outings with family and friends, and that isn't the way they want to live.

“I’d rather go down with my hands on a lawn mower than on a rocking chair,” declared Guarino, to which Gabrielson added, “Keeping active is the name of the game.”

At 95, both men look and act at least 20 years younger, and they give most of the credit for their spryness to a program offered by the Penn Highlands Clearfield Rehabilitation Department.

“There’s no doubt that Fit for Life has helped us physically, socially and mentally. If it weren’t for this program, we probably wouldn’t be here today,” Guarino said.

The Fit for Life program began in 1998. The rehabilitation staff first used the local YMCA gymnasium as the program site, but moved Fit for Life to the newly remodeled rehabilitation department at Penn Highlands Clearfield in 2002.

For $15 a month, participants come to the department twice a week and exercise on the department’s treadmills, stationary bikes and hand cycles. Rehabilitation staff members design exercise programs for the participants and monitor workouts. Fit for Life clients also receive counseling about nutrition and behavior modification.

Any patient who completes the outpatient cardiac or pulmonary rehabilitation programs at Penn Highlands Clearfield is eligible to join Fit for Life. Gabrielson underwent open-heart surgery in 2000 and then participated in the Clearfield outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program.

Guarino lives with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was referred to the outpatient pulmonary rehabilitation program in 2005 to help him manage his disease and symptoms.

Shelley Spicher, director of rehabilitation services, was one of the first exercise physiologists to oversee Fit for Life and has known Guarino and Gabrielson for years.

“Dick and Fred are truly are ‘fit for life’ and have shown that regular exercise does make a difference. They are committed to exercising and making healthy decisions and it definitely is working because I don’t see many people their age who are as active as they are,” she said.

Gabrielson and Guarino agreed that regular exercise not only gives them energy, stamina and mental alertness, but also has helped to ward off many medical problems common for their age.

“I don’t feel 95. Many people even question my age. My cardiologist, Dr. Cardamone, says I am doing so well because I exercise,” Gabrielson said.

Just last week, both men mowed grass, clipped hedges and prepared the outside of their homes for winter. Needless to say, their wives were grateful to have those chores done. Guarino, of Curwensville, has been married to Emma for 60 years, while Gabrielson, of Clearfield, and Elsie celebrated their 74th anniversary this year.

Gabrielson and Guarino are appreciative of the rehabilitation department staff and how they support patients in achieving independence and quality of life.

“Everybody treats us very well. They care about their patients and want to do what is best. I can’t say enough good things about them,” Gabrielson said.

Guarino added, “They’re really great, and always keep an eye on us to make sure we are doing OK. I feel so good that I plan to take my 12-year-old grandson hunting this year.”

For more information about Fit for Life, cardiac rehabilitation, pulmonary rehabilitation or physical, occupational and speech therapies offered at Penn Highlands Clearfield, please contact Spicher at (814) 768-2054.