If ever there was a poster girl for the CSP’s message ‘it’s never too late’, it’s 107-year-old Anne Robson.
Scotland’s oldest woman, she trained as a physiotherapist in the profession’s early days, became a physical education pioneer for the war effort and is still rallying herself and others to keep fit.
Gladys Anne Logan McWatt was born on September 14 1911, in the Borders town of Duns. As a youth she helped her GP father on his rounds, then trained as a physiotherapist and physical education teacher at Bedford Physical Education College, qualifying in 1933. She was listed in the UK Physiotherapist and Masseuse Register 1895-1980. She began offering exercise therapy locally,
‘There was nobody doing it in my area, so I would help people to get back on their feet. There was practically no treatment using electrical equipment then, it was all hand massage and exercise’, she recalls.
She then did stints at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, gaining more qualifications.
During the Second World War, Mrs Robson’s love of sport took her into physical education when she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the women’s branch of the British Army. She became training sergeant at Dunblane Physical Training School in 1942 and rose quickly through the ranks to become a senior commander of the War Office at Aldershot, where she was in charge of the physical fitness of all the women in the ATS. ‘It was a huge job that involved coordinating teams in Scotland, England and Germany,’ she says.
‘Many of the women were working in unhealthy conditions in underground offices and never saw light of day, so getting them out in the fresh air and doing exercise such as archery, athletics and games was really important to keeping them fit and healthy,’ she says.
After the war, she went into teaching and, in 1953, married primary school headmaster Jack Robson. She is now a resident at Strachan House care home in Edinburgh, run by Barchester Healthcare, where she has become ‘the best recruit’ for the CSP’s ‘Love activity, Hate exercise?’ campaign, according to physiotherapists Ethel Sinclair and Kate Tulloch. They contacted Frontline to say what a fantastic example Mrs Robson is setting. ‘There’s a team of four of us and we run 15-minute exercise classes every day, as well as helping people individually,’ says Ms Sinclair, adding that Mrs Robson puts younger residents to shame with her commitment to staying active, despite hearing and sight impairment. ‘She loves the parallel bars – she can really swing her hips! Everyone is in awe of her age and mobility,’ said Mrs Tulloch.
Two days after Frontline's photographer visited, she remarked: 'Although Anne was tired yesterday, she still insisted on a long walk and exercises in the parallel bars - she’s so disciplined and puts us all to shame at times.'
Mrs Robson’s message to others in their later years is to keep moving:
‘If you sit around and don’t do very much your joints get stiff – you just deteriorate. It’s very important to make the effort to keep active and it is an effort when you get to over 100. You have to make yourself do it!
‘I can no longer do the things I really enjoy, such as listening to music, but when I do the exercise classes and go for walks around the grounds, it does me a lot of good.’
Mrs Robson’s advice fits squarely with Public Health England’s evidence-based review guidance, published in July, which highlights the major health benefits of muscle and bone strengthening and balance activities, such as ball games, dance and resistance training. Poor muscle strength in adults aged 65 and over increases the risk of falling by 76 per cent.
Author: Louise Hunt
CSP campaign Love activity, Hate exercise?
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