Super-Aging Times Two: Meet Carol Arnold and Lois Fisher
Spend a little time talking to Carol Arnold and Lois Fisher in Lola’s, and it’s immediately apparent that they are both Super-Agers, the new term for people in their 70s and 80s who still have the level of capabilities, physical and mental, enjoyed by their decades-younger counterparts. Both of these high-energy Southminster residents spend a great deal of time exercising their bodies through yoga, workouts and dancing, and exercising their brains with everything from reading and doing puzzles to frequent social interactions.
But wait, there’s more! They’ve even been known to kayak in high water, learn to sing songs in French, and stay busy with many volunteer activities. You get the feeling that they’re basically unwilling to sit still for long, except on those occasions when they have a drink in their hands during Happy Hour at Southminster’s North Terraces.

Start Early and Stick with It
Carol Arnold set the pace for her personal Super-Aging journey when she began practicing yoga more than 50 years ago. “I read an article in Woman’s Day magazine in 1969 about the benefits of yoga and how it slowed the aging process,” she said. “There were no yoga studios in Asheville where I lived at the time, so I bought myself books and taught myself yoga.” Carol took classes when they became available, practiced with Charlotte yoga icon Mary Lou Buck, and at age 65, got certified to teach yoga by Lisa Crocker at the Bodhi Tree. She led back-to-nature yoga, hiking and meditation retreats at Hot Springs, taught yoga at the Y, and then started leading yoga classes at Southminster. Today, Carol also powers through Southminster’s Aqua Class two days a week, swims laps, and works out at the gym.

One day last May, Carol was joined by fellow Southminster resident, Beth Parker, and Southminster’s Wellness Manager, Gay Gasper on a road trip to Landsford Canal State Park. Did they just sit on the observation deck like most people and marvel from afar at the beautiful Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies blooming in the waters of the Catawba River? Of course not. They jumped in kayaks and paddled right through the lilies, even though the water was so high that organizers considered cancelling the trip. According to Gay, “They were the ones who inspired me to keep going when the going got tough!”

Lois is a great believer in positive interaction with other people besides your spouse. “I think it’s one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Carol and I are both over-the-top in terms of physical activity compared to the norm, but you don’t have to be.” They both go to more advanced employee exercise classes, instead of those designed for residents because the instructor “kicks our butt.” Lois said Carol’s trajectory on exercising has been like hers. “When I started in my late 20s and early 30s, I hadn’t exercised much,” she said. “Then the Jane Fonda thing came out, and I had a friend who had opened an exercise studio, and we signed up. That led to ballet classes the next year. I’ve always worked on my flexibility and balance. I told myself early on that I would not let myself have poor posture and limited flexibility as I aged. My mother was sidelined by osteoporosis, so I have always tried to do things that kept me upright.”

Stretch Your Talents
Both of these Super-Agers have also acted in the Southminster Theater Group and are part of the Neighborhood Singers, led by the wonderful Thomas Moore, a major force in Southminster’s music program. “His MLK celebration brought everyone to tears,” Carol said. “Being in our former group, The Village Singers, was a lot of work and made us stretch our vocal abilities,” Lois added. Bob Edgerton, the music professor at Winthrop University who led the group would have them learn the lyrics for some songs in French, and made sure they pronounced diphthongs correctly, both challenging mental workouts. Both Carol and Lois agreed that entertainer John Lewis is also a Super-Ager instigator for everyone at Southminster. “He doesn’t just perform, he’s also a great DJ who gets people out on the floor to dance.”

Carol says she is a “movement person,” even though she has had both knees replaced. “The great thing for us is that, prior to living at Southminster, we had to get in the car and go to the Y. Now we have our own Y right here. The other thing I’ve enjoyed here is the volunteer work,” Lois said. “I call myself the Friendly Neighborhood Pusher, because one of the things I do is help employees transport people in wheelchairs to Southminster programs and assist others who can’t find their way alone.”

Eat to Live, Don’t Live to Eat
Both women say another of their superpowers is eating well. “My nickname has been the Food Nazi for about 25 years, ever since I took a nutrition class when I was in management with Bell South,” Lois said. “It’s easy when you are socializing to overeat,” so I have to watch that,” she adds.

Lois goes on to say, “I remember when I turned 70, I started thinking I wouldn’t have to exercise as much, and I wouldn’t have to worry about how much I ate and drank. Then I passed 75 and headed toward 80. I still stayed the course. Now I see someone in the exercise room who’s 90, so I continue my good habits.” Carol adds, “I still watch my diet, but when I really want something, I eat it and enjoy every bite.”

The other thing you need to hang onto and strive for is a positive attitude,” Lois said. “Health issues will try and drag you down. Don’t let yourself fall into that abyss. Our Book Sisters Book Club just read the book “The Diary of a Young Girl,” about Anne Frank. This young woman’s positive attitude is amazing considering people were starving to death all around her.”

As Gay watches and listens to Carol and Lois, she has her own take on the secret to their Super-Aging success. “They both have full lives, they’ve worked, they’ve retired, and now they are living their lives with even bigger passion in all kinds of ways.”