Originally posted from Lancaster Online.com: News : The 104-year-old workout warrior

By David O’connor, New Era Staff Writer, Lancaster New Era

LANCASTER COUNTY, PA – It’s an ordinary weekday inside the exercise center at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown when Jean Gelder walks in, a purpose in her step you can spot across the room. With the whoo-whoo-whoo whir of the various treadmills and exercise bikes in the background, Mrs. Gelder climbs onto a machine called the “Nustep” and quickly gets rolling, working the controls and then getting her arms and legs rolling.“I do this for 30 minutes!” explains Mrs. Gelder, a hankie in her left hand while she goes about her half-hour regimen.

“Why do I do this? I just want to keep limbered up,” she says.

Nothing out of the ordinary here: Mrs. Gelder and others exercising, staying in shape or following medical advice to improve their health.

Here’s what’s a little different — Mrs. Gelder is 104 … 104 and a half, by the way.

But with a dedication that puts younger people a third her age to shame, she makes it every day to the health and fitness center, known as the Masonic Life Center in the Freemasons Building.

The white-haired Mrs. Gelder has walked, but she just joined the exercise club in recent months.

She was too busy in her younger days raising her family to have a lot of time for pumping iron, she explains.

But no one who knows her is too surprised she’s so dedicated.

The way Mrs. Gelder, who looks a good quarter-century younger than her age, takes charge of her exercise is the same way she has always taken the bull by the horns.

A native of Brownsville, outside Pittsburgh, she has “always been capable of doing anything she wanted to,” says her daughter Anne Powers, who’s 78 and also lives at Masonic Village.

“Anything she set out to do, she did it. And when she did it, it had to be perfect,” her daughter comments.

“She made afghans and Christmas stockings for the three of us and for her grandchildren, and if it wasn’t right, it got ripped out and started over, let me tell you.”

So at an age when merely getting out of bed can be a challenge, Mrs. Gelder is a familiar sight at the gym.

She devotes all her time in the exercise center to the Nustep.

Mrs. Gelder, who will be 105 on April 2, also took charge of her family after her husband died when her children were little.

Along with Mrs. Powers, she had two sons who have died, James and Charles Gelder.

Her daughter recalls how her mom got a job at First National Bank, where she worked as a teller for some 20 years.

Mrs. Gelder, who also has seven grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, was born on a 65-acre farm in Brownsville, which is in Fayette County. She was the youngest of eight children.

After two years of business school, she worked for six years as a stenographer for the Monongahela Railroad. In 1924, she married Lawrence “Butch” Gelder, who died in the late 1920s.

Mrs. Gelder, who does use a walker to get about, explains she never really had time for exercise, because “I was always on the go … if you call working exercise.”

While her stint in the gym sometimes leaves her “a bit tired, and my legs are a little bit wobbly, I’m not sore afterward. It does me good.”

Mrs. Gelder is “absolutely remarkable” says Vicki Gillmore, administrator of health services.

“We have a fair number of residents who are over 100 and are still active, but we have no one I know of who’s 105 and a member of the life center,” she says.

Gillmore, who has a doctorate in nursing, said Mrs. Gelder’s dedication shows the value of exercise as we age, not just physically, but as a major boost to cognitive skills.

Mrs. Gelder has lived at Masonic Village since 2000, living in the residential area before moving to the assisted-living area.

Her mom has “always walked, I’d say since she was 80,” Mrs. Powers adds.

Mrs. Powers, whose late husband, Jack C. Powers, was a member of the Masons, agrees that her mom is remarkable, and always has been: “My dad died when I was a year old, and she really had her hands full.”

Mrs. Gelder also lived in Baltimore and then Treasure Island, Fla.

This plucky E-town woman says she exercises daily for one simple reason: “I just want to keep limbered up.”