Saturday, January 25, 2020
Jan. 25, 2020

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90-year-old Vancouver woman makes a habit of exercise

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
5 Photos
Olga Vilen, 90, works out at Firstenburg Community Center in Vancouver. Vilen took up exercise about 20 years ago, and it has become a source of consistent good in her life, as well as her husband Dale's life. (Photos by Nathan Howard/The Columbian)
Olga Vilen, 90, works out at Firstenburg Community Center in Vancouver. Vilen took up exercise about 20 years ago, and it has become a source of consistent good in her life, as well as her husband Dale's life. (Photos by Nathan Howard/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

There’s a peculiar sight that Jana Wilson encounters on afternoons occasionally.

In her job as a recreation specialist at Firstenburg Community Center, Wilson will sometimes spot a group of teenagers working out across from 90-year-old Olga Vilen.

“She could be doing an arm exercise, and the teenagers across from her are talking and having a good time next to her, and she fits right in,” Wilson said of Vilen, a Vancouver resident.

In spite of her age, Vilen fits right in because Firstenburg and fitness have become a consistent part of Vilen’s life as she’s aged. Most of Vilen’s adult life was spent working as a nurse and raising her own four kids, too busy to take up exercising until she and her husband moved to Clark County about 20 years ago. She’s been exercising at Firstenburg since 2007.

Vilen works out six days a week, mixing weights and cardio. She splits the weight training between leg days and arm days, and every day she walks a mile — outdoors if it’s nice, and around the indoor track if it isn’t.

“You’ve got to keep going because if you don’t, you give up,” Vilen said. “You go even when you don’t feel like it. I don’t always feel like it, but it’s just a habit.”

Vilen’s husband, Dale, generally exercises with her, though he was hospitalized recently. Working out has helped him with his neuromuscular disease, Vilen said. And for the last couple weeks, while Dale has been in the hospital, working out has been a great distraction for Vilen.

“I come here to get rid of the stress,” she said. “It helps a lot.”

Wilson said Vilen is inspirational. She said Vilen has taught her that you need to keep a positive attitude and remember to “see the good things” when life is tough.

“She’s just such a motivator,” Wilson said. “Look at her, she’s 90 and taking care of her husband, working out every day. She’s a role model.”

Sixty percent of Firstenburg’s members are seniors, Wilson said. Some seniors exercise a little, and then socialize at the community center.

“They might arrive in their jeans and a coat, but they come every single day, and they walk their mile, maybe sit and talk with their friend, and leave,” Wilson said of senior members. “They need the social time, and they get the workout in, and this feels like their second home.”

Vilen said she draws her inspiration from a 96-year-old Firstenburg patron, who walks the track almost daily despite having back arthritis. Vilen said she doesn’t have any major health complications or pain, and credits some of her health to exercise. She said she plans to keep exercising until she can’t.

On New Year’s Eve, Vilen wrapped up a workout by taking some sips from the water fountain before heading to the track for laps. The following day, New Year’s Day, Firstenburg would be closed.

“Well, they’re closed tomorrow, so I got to get in tomorrow’s workout too,” she joked.

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