Rose-Ann Gets Strong at 99

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Rose-Ann Gets Strong at 99

by Michael Shammas, SSC | January 23, 2024

I want to share with you the story of Starting Strength Boston’s
oldest member, Rose-Ann. She turned 99 years old on September 18th of
2023, which I believe makes her the oldest member within SS gyms, and
probably the oldest barbell trainee in the world. She lives a quiet
life and is fairly averse to cameras and media, which is why I’m
writing up her story in this article for this obscure website.
Although as her daughter likes to say, “If you don’t want
attention, then you shouldn’t be 99 and barbell training.”

Rose-Ann began training
with us at SS Boston shortly after we opened in 2021 per the
recommendation of her nearly 70-year-old daughter Deb, a founding
member of our gym. Deb and her husband Ray quickly saw the value in
fortifying their physical capacities, and thought the Starting
Strength method would be a good fit for a physically-conscientious
individual like their mother.  

 Rose-Ann outside SS Boston before her first session.

Rose-Ann’s intro session involved the usual assessment of physical
capabilities, including the ability to squat down and stand up
through a full range of motion. Much to our amazement, she was able
to sit down on one of our benches and stand back up without any
issues. She seemed offended even by the notion that we would assume
she would allow her physical condition to deteriorate to the point
where she couldn’t perform a squat with the weight of her own body.

A fiercely independent
individual, Rose-Ann lives alone in the house she has lived in for 67
years. She does her own cooking, cleaning, and sometimes gardening,
and is extremely popular around the holidays due to her stellar
home-made pies. Wary of the unfortunate possibility of a fall-related
injury – an accident that several of her friends have fallen prey
to – the decision to begin strength training seemed like a
no-brainer to Rose-Ann. Since that day, she can now perform sets of 3
with 57 lb on her back (although, something tells me she wishes she
had an excuse to not squat). Rose-Ann’s favorite quip when asked
how long she’s been lifting is to reply, “Well, I started when I
was 96…”

rose-ann deadlifting at starting strength boston

Rose-Ann deadlifting 100 lb on her 98th birthday.

Rose-Ann was admitted to the hospital with abdominal pain on Sunday,
November 26, 2023. On her intake form, she let the staff know that
she had deadlifted 88 lb a few days prior on Friday. She immediately
became a celebrity and received visits from staff all throughout the
hospital. After running some tests, the doctors found a malignant
tumor in her colon. The standard protocol after diagnosing a
99-year-old patient with this ailment is to send them home, let them
deteriorate, and go quietly into the night. Because she was strong
and fit enough thanks to her training at SS Boston, the doctors
decided to operate and remove the tumor. Upon hearing the news that
this operation may pose an inconvenience to her weekly training
session, Rose-Ann was adamant about being released from the hospital
by Friday.

The surgeon was able to remove part of Rose-Ann’s colon along with
the tumor, the only unfortunate consequence being that she has to
live out the rest of her days with a colostomy bag. She went for 2
walks the day after her surgery, and did not want to skip a beat with
her training. The only words that came out of Rose-Ann’s mouth
after her remarkably unique surgery were about Starting Strength. She
sang the praises of the program to every staff member that would
visit, and there were quite a few given the circumstances. She
attributes her physical condition to training and recognizes that it
is the most valuable activity in her life.

Rose-Ann carrying her own luggage on a trip to the Cape at
98-and-a-half-years old.

Rose-Ann is currently about 5 weeks post-surgery at the time of this
article being written. She is wrapping up her post-surgery PT and
will be joining us back at the gym in no time. I would like to note
that, given that it is the first week of January, Rose-Ann was able
to spend another holiday season with her loved ones. Barbell training
gives us a surplus of quality years that can be spent with loved
ones, traveling the world, pursuing new and old passions, or living
into your centennial year. I find it absolutely staggering that
Rose-Ann was able to fight and beat cancer (hopefully permanently)
via emergency surgery at the ripe young age of 99, and I know you
will as well.

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