MILFORD — Dot Furnish says she never makes plans too far ahead and is always ready to face whatever comes.
That has become the Milford resident’s mantra as she celebrates life at 92 years of age.
Most recently, Ms. Furnish decided to take on the role of a substitute teacher for her fitness class at the Milford Senior Center after the previous teacher stepped down.
Ms. Furnish has been attending fitness classes at the senior center for the past 50 years, so she had the experience. She was also an art teacher many years ago, so she knew how to teach.
It turned out to be a perfect fit.
“I did it by default because nobody else would and so the class was going to be canceled. That’s what happened,” Ms. Furnish said. “When COVID shut everything down (last year, I really felt it when I stopped exercising because the group motivates one another.
“So, I didn’t want to stop the class again for any reason.”
Ms. Furnish quickly grabbed her mother’s stretch band that she once used while working out to “The Jack LaLanne Show,” the longest-running American exercise TV show that was aired from 1951 to ’85.
She is confident and quick as she gets in front of her exercise class and leads them in a series of workouts and routines. She said the exercises not only keep her in better physical shape, but they help her keep her mental edge, as well.
“I like the feeling of well-being that it gives me,” said Ms. Furnish. “Plus, it gives me not only that, but confidence that I can drive my car and walk without a cane … It just makes me feel better.”
Mike Leister, Ms. Furnish’s son-in-law, posted on Facebook recently how much he is amazed by all that she has decided to take on.
“Recently they lost their instructor so when there was no quick fix. She volunteered to lead the class,” Mr. Leister wrote. “Her helper is a gentleman who was a boxer. Today was their first class and she is having a great time. She was an art teacher many years ago, so she has the knowledge of how to teach.
“At 92, the rest of the class cannot say she is too tough. Her mom used to exercise to Jack LaLanne if you are old enough to remember his early exercise TV show. She believes in staying fit. She is a marvel!”
Brenda Coppock, executive director of the Milford Senior Center, added that while the community center has many incredible members, Ms. Furnish always brings a smile and a happy attitude whenever she enters the doors.
“I think she’s wonderful. She’s just amazing,” said Ms. Coppock. “I’ve always told Dot Furnish I want to be just like her when I grow up. She’s a wonderful asset to our center here and we enjoy her every minute of the day.
“We enjoy each and every one of our members. There are some exceptional ones that stand out in the crowd and take the initiative to do things that some others won’t, but that’s everywhere. Dot is one of the leaders here and we love her dearly.”
It turns out that Ms. Furnish is into a lot more than stretching and workouts.
For Ms. Furnish’s 92nd birthday two weeks ago, she took to the skies for a birthday present in an open cockpit Stearman PT-17 (biplane) out of Massey Aerodrome in Maryland.
“It was great,” she said. “I’d go again tomorrow in a minute. It was a training plane and I sat in the front and the pilot was behind me who is a friend, and I could have taken control if I knew what I was doing, of course. I wasn’t wearing a parachute. I had a lot of confidence in the pilot.”
Just like her fitness class members have in her.
Active Aging Week underway
Ms. Furnish’s inspirational story comes as millions of older people around the globe are participating in the 19th annual Active Aging Week presented by Humana this week.
The week is meant to celebrate aging and the benefits of active living at any age. It showcases the capabilities of older adults as fully participating members of society.
“Collectively, we’ve been through a lot since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. William Shrank, chief medical officer at Humana, in a press release. “From social distancing to continued uncertainties and stress, now is the time for all adults to prioritize their health and pursue wellbeing.”
During Active Aging Week, host organizations, including senior living communities, senior centers, fitness centers, YMCAs, libraries, cities and others, offer events and activities at the local level, at low to no cost to participants.