Profile in Fitness - Virginia Dreby - by Suzanne Frank

Despite having had a stroke a few years back, Virginia Dreby surely is one of the happiest women living among us. “I’m one of the most fortunate people in the world,” she declared recently. “I had the most wonderful parents and a wonderful marriage. And my children, all five of them, are very attentive and caring and have blessed me with grands and great-grands.”

Besides being so close to her family, Virginia’s upbeat and positive attitude blooms in large part through her determination and dedication to her daily fitness routine. “I’d be miserable if I didn’t do it,” she said.  “I like to go to the pool and I feel good doing it because it makes me feel so very free.” And because of her stick-to-itiveness, she has received awards from the Fitness and Aquatics Department for her steadfast commitment to both her water and land exercise accomplishments.

Three times a week she’s in the pool, which feels like liquid velvet to her, wearing three-pound weights first on her ankles and then on her arms as she walks, kicks, and stretches while hanging on a noodle. The water really frees her to walk, which is not otherwise possible. Three other days she participates in exercises which she claims have eased the burden of her stroke, which left her unable to remember names. “Ed Ellis, in charge of my fitness class, gets me to move every part of my body including my eyes, neck and arms – all of this while I’m sitting or standing,” she explains. “It’s all about keeping your body in condition so that you are comfortable. Although some consider it painful, I find it easy, fortunately.”

“I’ve canvassed all the residents in the Haddon dining room and all thought that the fitness program was great and liked it, even if some didn’t participate much,” she said. “The Fitness folks say the sweetest things to us while we exercise” she confided, referring to Beverly Kannen-gieszer, Rick Trandahl, Ken Roland, and Ed.

Although Virginia has spinal stenosis, she luckily has does not suffer due to a high pain threshold. (That might explain how this incredible woman delivered her first two babies herself, without medical assistance.)  While in the pool, she gains an amazing mobility she lacks on land and she laughingly recounts that Beverly calls her Mrs. Dreby on Mondays, Virginia on Wednesdays, and Ginny on Fridays. That seems incredibly fitting, as she does appear to be three vitally alive people all rolled into one.


In September 2009 at the time of her interview with Suzanne Feank, Ginny wrote a letter to explain her feelings about the fitness program. 

Since being a part of Assisted Living, my role as a resident has had a concentration of time in the pool program.  That has made me evaluate the experience of Medford Leas in a different way. The factors that stand out involve the fitness (not swimming) program in the pool.

My 45-60 minutes three days a week of water-walking keeps me feeling involved physically as compared with my neighbors here in assisted living who sit around the community area between meals mostly motionless and speechless without participating in any programs.

The presence of pool staff and assistants is what makes all the difference.  Because I am able, I work through my exercise routine on my own.  Yet I am in the pool among the staff as they work with and communicate with the residents to whom they are assigned and I feel welcome to voice my feelings to them as necessary or inspired.

This is my way of complimenting the pool staff -- particularly Ed -- for creating an atmosphere of accomplishment of goals and an underlying feeling of goodwill, fun and shared joy -- in my case with what I call "liquid velvet."

At 91, my goal is only to keep up a weekly involvement physically and mentally in the only area where I feel completely normal.  I cannot walk on land.  I walk normally in water.  So I feel Medford Leas is where I want to be now, and I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the staff that makes this all the reality of my days.

Virginia Dreby  8/17/09