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Has she found the Fountain of Youth?Posted Sunday, January 29, 2012, at 8:18 AM
The line-dancing ladies of Woodsmoke Campground in Ft. Myers, Florida practice this hobby every Monday and Friday, in between water aerobics, walking, Bingo, shuffleboard, Eucher,and a host of other activities. Jean Carroll, second from left, is the instructor. She is 85 years old, and we all love her dearly!
This story is for all my Woodsmoke friends, whom I leave behind this morning, as I travel back to Missouri. My tan may fade, dear friends, but my memory won't! I'll see you again next year!
Since the beginning of history, human beings have longed to discover the legendary fountain of youth. Ponce de Leon, who lived between 1460-1521, is usually recognized as an explorer who searched for the legendary youth-bearing site in Florida.
Though no one ever discovered the magic fountain, travelers have traditionally flocked to the sunny climate of southern Florida to escape the cold temperatures of the northern states. Retired over-65 "snow birds" show up around October or November and stay until March or April.
Eighty-five-year-old Pittsburg resident Jeannie Carroll has been coming to the Woodsmoke RV Campgrounds in Ft. Myers, Florida for 28 years. For the last 25 years, she has led her fellow seniors in exercises to keep them young and active.
"Jeannie is a wonderful role model for all of us," said one of the ladies who attend the various exercises. "She was in good shape last year, but she went on a strict diet and lost 50 pounds. Now, she really looks good!"
Five days a week, the ladies (and a few gentlemen) meet at the camp swimming pool for aerobic exercises. It's a friendly group, who chatter happily, while Jeannie leads them through an hour long program of exercises designed to keep them limber and energetic.
"The exercises are so easy and so much fun that we don't realize we're sore until the next morning!" adds a camper from Ontario, Canada. "I've been right here in this spot for 12 years!"
In addition to the water aerobics, Ms. Jeannie dons her red cowboy boots and teaches line-dancing on Mondays and Fridays. About fifteen or twenty participants join in on each of these activities. They hail from Canada, Minnesota, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Missouri and Pennsylvania, just to name a few.
Ms. Jeannie welcomes the assistance of 84-year-old Jean Ann, who spends six months of the year at the Woodsmoke campground. Jean Ann belongs to a line-dancing group at a senior center in her home town in Ohio, and she comes to her Florida home with new dance moves.
"We used to perform at the state fair, but so many of our group are gone now," Ms. Jean Ann said. "Now we sometimes perform at county fairs."
"I was 'vining' (a line dance move) in the shower the other day," said the wiry 84-year-old.
"Ms. Jean Ann figured out one of the 'boot scootin' moves while she was playing Bingo the other night!" laughed the lady from Kentucky.
Many of the line-dancing moves require considerable balance and dexterity. The dancing is also good for concentration and memory, something the seniors need.
In addition to water aerobics and line-dancing, the ladies and their husbands gather for Euchre on Friday nights and Bingo at least once a week. The mental activity is as important for seniors as is the physical.
Walking is also big at the campground. At all hours of the day and night, the residents can be seen walking around the landscaped grounds, especially with their dogs. This reporter would estimate that two-thirds of the camp residents bring their dogs along, and one or two even have their cats tethered outside their campers, though they haven't been seen walking their feline friends.
Though studies show that pets ordinarily lower their owners' blood-pressure, one Woodsmoke resident experienced a very different reaction, when his dog chewed up his $4500 hearing aids! His wife came back from water aerobics to find the dog banished to his kennel!
Though Ponce de Leon may not have found the legendary fountain of youth, it would appear that 85-year-old Jean Carroll has come as close as is humanly possible! Fortunately for her friends, she's perfectly willing to share her secrets!
From Interstate 75 in Sarasota, Florida, this is your roving reporter Madeline, leaving the golden state behind and returning to the stark, cold reality of Missouri! Life must go on...
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.