OCALA, Fla. - As we age, exercise becomes more challenging. But as we know, it's never too late to get fit.
That's the attitude 88-year-old Gene Diamond takes as he eases into the pool at the Silver Springs Shores Community Center.
Diamond is the lead instructor for the daily water aerobics class. Nearly 30 people gather per class, following along with his commands.
In chest deep water, Diamond calls for everyone to stretch to the left. The entire group sways in unison.
Most participants are retirement age and live in the surrounding neighborhoods. Diamond likes to keep them entertained.
"Everybody knows the routine, so I see if they're awake by varying it at different stages," Diamond laughs.
Joy Calhoun has been attending classes for about a year.
"He loves to trick us up," Calhoun says. "When we go this way, left, he wants to go right. He makes it fun. He makes our brains work."
Diamond may like a good one-liner but it's clear from the first exercise he takes his role seriously.
Carmen Vasquez takes a spot by the stairs. She follows along, raising her arms up toward the sky.
"He doesn't want any talking. We can laugh for a second, but that's it. Get back to the exercise," Vasquez said with a laugh.
In the next hour, Diamond will go through a progression of 54 different exercises.
Diamond breaks the class into two 30-minute segments with a short break between them. The first concentrates on calisthenics and the second on building strength.
Zahra Lapp, 94, has been a member for nearly 30 years.
"It makes us feel good," Lapp said. "When you miss a day, you feel it."
Most here feel the same way. Kathy Piper moved to the neighborhood in 2017. She joined the class soon after and has rarely missed a session. Piper says it's as much a social club as an exercise club.
"Gene is the inspiration for the whole thing," Piper said, adding that the group plans outings together as well as community service projects.
Diamond was nominated for the News 6 Getting Results Award by Russell Grace, the pool club president.
"The guy, he goes out of his way for the community. His devotion and commitment to the community is outstanding," Grace said. "He inspires me and that's why I'm here now. And that's why you're here."
Diamond is a Vietnam veteran with 21 years of service. With military precision, the class is over in 60 minutes sharp.
As he exits the pool, Diamond reflects on the class.
"All the people are happy," Diamond said.
He makes a beeline for the shower. Tomorrow, they will all be back again.
If you'd like to nominate someone for a Getting Results Award, click here.
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