Keeping active means staying young at heart

Lawn bowling, water aerobics and singing keeping one local senior busy

Ruth Zernial

Ruth Zernial has been lawn bowling with the Central Saanich Lawn Bowling Club since 1999, a number not unfamiliar to the Saanich woman who just celebrated her 99th birthday last month.

Zernial turned 99 on June 20 and celebrated with members of the lawn bowling club and her water aerobics group — another activity she participates in to keep herself busy.

“All my life I was very into sports like golfing and other things,” explained Zernial, who in her younger days graduated from the Universities of Berlin and Freiburg with accreditation as a physiotherapist.

“Lawn bowling and water aerobics are both good because they are good movement for the body.”

After growing up and raising a family with her first husband in Germany, Zernial visited Canada several times after his death. In 1989, she moved to Brentwood Bay to live with her second husband, Gunter Wittneben, whom she met the year prior during a visit.

When Wittneben died in 1996, Zernial vowed to remain active and busy to keep herself from becoming depressed.

“I took courses in reflexology and applied kinesiology because I wanted to keep learning and keep my brain active,” Zernial explained.

Zernial, who drove up until last year when she gave up her license, now has a little more trouble getting around to all the activities in her busy schedule, but said that she has discovered just how many friends she has in the community because of it.

“Since I have no car, I rely on the HandyDart to get around to some activities but I can’t always get one. It’s then I see how many friends I have when they offer to drive me or take me places. It’s amazing. I’m very appreciative.”

Margaret Smith, the president of the Central Saanich Lawn Bowling Club said that Zernial’s stamina during games is impressive.

“She’s an amazing woman. She can outplay many of our younger members,” she laughed.

Zernial has also made a point of keeping up with the times. The senior is computer-savvy and uses Skype and email to keep in touch with friends and family overseas.

“It’s the only way I can see them on a regular basis,” she said, referring to Skype.

Between lawn bowling around three times a week, weekly water aerobics and being a member of Silver Threads’ Hampton Singers, Zernial keeps herself active and she attributes her participation in the different organizations to her graceful aging.

“I do keep myself very active,” she said.

“And why do I do it? Because it keeps me going. If you never stop learning, never stop moving, go outside your limits, it keeps you young.”