Upped her physical game in her 70s
“Everything is possible. People should not see closed doors, it is up to us to open the door,” says Bessí Jóhannsdóttir, who decided to start exercising vigorously when she left her job as a regular history teacher at the Commercial College of Iceland four years ago.
Jóhannsdóttir says she has always exercised, but often in bursts.
“When I became 70 and eventually stopped teaching, I stopped and thought, ‘ What am I going to do? ’ I know that many who suddenly stop working are going to have a certain shock. This made me decide to build myself up and get myself fit,” says Bessie, who exercises four or five times a week.
Training at two locations
“My daughter and son-in-law practiced at the Granda 101 fitness center and when they pointed out a class called “Older and better” Fit, I was thrilled. The station is conveniently located close to my home. It’s just a good walk to Grandi. I’m there twice a week. When I am there I focus on increasing strength, stamina and agility. I’m naturally rather strong and have always enjoyed lifting,” says Jóhannsdóttir, who says it’s rewarding to be in an environment where warmth and care is paramount and the staff makes sure the training group doesn’t get ahead of themselves.
Are you trying to improve?
“I always approach my physical workout with the goal to improve. I have improved in terms of muscle mass and agility. I do not see that the elderly are not as capable of aiming for more strength. We can have the same goals as those who are younger, we just approach them in a slightly different way,” says Jóhannsdóttir.
She also trains with a good group of women with the fitness instructor Sóley Jóhannsdóttir, who calls the group the “The graceful ladies.” As Jóhannesdóttir says, “It is a boost to us physically and mentally. I am a super social person. I love being with people and my group out in Grandi are my friends. Then some new people come in and they’re welcome,” she says.
“I also started golfing when I stopped teaching. It’s absolutely amazing. I live right next to Nesvöllur and practice there regularly. I tried it 20 years ago and I hated it, but then later I went with my colleagues from the Commercial College and I got infected with the golf bug, but it’s a tradition to go golfing at the college. I go out to play as often as I can or go golfing to Tenerife or Florida. It is paramount to exercise because you have to be in good shape to play golf.”
The lesson was rewarding
Jóhannsdóttir says that she had an outstanding time at the Commercial School. Today, she has many friends from school, both from the faculty and from the student body. “I love teaching. It was no easy task for me to give up teaching, so I have been eager to step in and teach when needed. I think it is a shame that people are forced to stop working when they are in their early 70s, especially those who are full of fun, mentally well, physically fit and are enjoying their work.”
Conversations with the young people at school was also very enjoyable. “Being with such young people is so stimulating. History is such a diverse subject. It’s so nice to talk about history from many angles,” says Jóhannsdóttir, who went abroad with other teachers to take students abroad.
Trips to Poland and Russia to areas of the Holocaust and the trips to Russia were memorable, and she says that Russia’s invation of Ukraine is very sad. “We visited Russia several times with a group of students to Saint Petersburg. These kind of visits creates a feeling of international understanding and is so culturally important.”
The focus on children's issues
Jóhannsdóttir keeps busy and she likes to cater to the youngest generation. “I try to be a good grandmother and care for my grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. I have great friendships with my children and with my grandchildren. I take time to do that and we often travel together,” she says.
Jóhannsdóttir is active in the Independence Party, is a deputy MP and serves on several boards. The level of interest within politics does indeed change, but it is not necessarily the issues of senior citizens that she is most interested in. She says that the situation of children and their young parents is of interest to her.
“I don’t think we’re doing as well as we can. There’s too much talk, but not enough attention paid to the actual services of children and their families. I experience it through people with children around me. There is a lack of security, rapid staff turnover inside the kindergartens and we need to increase the number of educated people in the schools. This sector needs a lot of work and there is a lot of pressure on the people who are working there. This is one of the topics I’m very interested in,” says Jóhannsdóttir, who says that if the will is there and people have the desire, they should have a go and do something and try to make a change in their community.