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SMILE sessions keep Royal Borough residents exercising into their nineties

Every week older people gather in community centres around the borough for some gentle exercise and a chance to meet new people.

SMILE (So Much Improvement with a Little Exercise) is a programme run by the Royal Borough for those over 50 – with some participants in their 90s.

The club was set up in 2003 and gained charity status in 2013.

There are more than 40 sessions on offer each week at locations across the borough, including chair-based exercise, short tennis, walking football and Tai Chi.

Bev Goodman has been teaching SMILE sessions for about eight years and on Tuesday afternoons takes a level one aerobics class at Old Windsor Day Centre.

This week about 20 older people took part in the low impact chair-based exercise class.

“It is also about the social side of it,” said Bev.

“They have made friends and this is the only thing some of the people do, so it gets them out of the house.”

The oldest participant at the session was 98-year-old John Fletcher who moved to the village from Scotland seven years ago to live near his family.

“I miss the hills of Scotland, I used to do a lot of climbing,” he said.

“I come for exercise and I’ve made a lot of friends here.”

A stalwart of the group, Elsie Brooks, 85, has attended the classes since they started 12 years ago.

She started coming to the day centre about 20 years ago when her husband died.

She said: “I think the company and the exercise does me good, we have a good laugh.”

A lot of people who attend the sessions get there using the borough’s People to Places transport service.

Alan Holmes turned 90 two weeks ago and still drives himself to the weekly sessions.

He lives in Datchet with wife of more than 60 years, Joyce, 83.

“I hope I’m going to drive for another 10 years,” he said.

He said he was never sporty as a young man and remembers being picked last in PE at school.

“I spend most of my time sitting down now so it is nice to do things like this,” he added.

For more details about SMILE call Sarah Hill on 07876 586445.

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