AT the age of 76 you might expect Bob Powell to be taking things easy, but the gym instructor at Devizes Leisure Centre is busier than he has ever been.
Mr Powell, who lives in Calne, has been working as a trainer since he retired 11 years ago following a career teaching engineering and he is encouraging older people to join him and feel better by taking more exercise.
He said: “You don’t have to kill yourself. Just come in, relax and get the blood flowing and clear your brain. A lot of people get put off by the leotards and biceps brigade but everyone should get more exercise and you take as much as you need or can do.”
Mr Powell has been involved in sport all his life, taking part in semi-pro football in the highly competitive leagues in London. Upon moving to New Zealand, he taught engineering by day and coached football in the evening.
He and his wife returned from New Zealand in 1989, just before he retired, but the death of Mrs Powell soon afterwards knocked all his retirement plans awry. He saw an advert in the Gazette & Herald for a trainer at the new leisure centre in Devizes but didn’t hold out much hope for it.
He said: “I thought, who’s going to give me a job as a trainer at 65? But I got it and I’m still here.”
About 35 to 40 per cent of the users of the Fitness Suite at the leisure centre are retired people who have heeded government advice about not getting trapped in front of the TV or computer screen.
Mr Powell said: “The feelgood factor you get when you regularly take exercise is worth its weight in gold. I would like to see more older people coming here, especially women.
“Once you start using the gym you become less self-conscious and your self-esteem rockets.”
Mr Powell also works with disabled people. An MS sufferer has been able to lift up and cuddle his two-year-old grandson for the first time since the child was born because of the rehabilitation exercises Mr Powell has had him doing.
Nick Andrews, who has cerebral palsy, was wheelchair bound when he first arrived at the gym and now is able to walk some distance with the aid of just a walking stick. Mr Powell said: “What a wonderful job this is that allows you to see things like that!”