Resolute and resilient: ‘I’m not ready to go yet. I’ve still life to live’

Frances Foley (92) exercises daily to stay living in her home amid Covid-19 pandemic

Frances Foley (92) exercising close to her home in Oscar Square in the Tenters, Dublin city. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

Frances Foley (92) exercising close to her home in Oscar Square in the Tenters, Dublin city. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

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Frances Foley begins every morning with stretches, going up on her toes, and back down again to loosen her muscles before going downstairs. She does these exercises religiously, never missing a day, because “I’m not ready to go yet. I’ve still life to live.”

Foley, who is active in the senior citizens’ club and the local parish, found lockdown particularly difficult because she has never been one to sit around. She believes that if she hadn’t been advised on how to keep active at home, “I’d probably be stuck in my bed.”

I had breast cancer young, a heart attack, and then arthritis and scoliosis now

She adds her exercises to her daily routine – when she’s watching television or making a cup of tea. On days when she’s feeling particularly stiff, she’ll go up and down the stairs two or three times until she feels better.

Fitness routine

“I had breast cancer young, a heart attack, and then arthritis and scoliosis now. The spine is curving. So if I don’t do them [the exercises], I’d say I’d be in a bad way,” she says.

Frances Foley (92) exercising close to her home in Oscar Square, The Tenters, Dublin, with physiotherapist Margaret Fitzpatrick. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell
Frances Foley (92) exercising close to her home in Oscar Square, The Tenters, Dublin, with physiotherapist Margaret Fitzpatrick. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

Foley’s husband Jack, who died 20 years ago, was a professional boxer for much of his life. The Dublin 8 native is using her husband’s commitment to fitness as her inspiration to keep moving.

I’m here on my own. My husband is dead, my three children are married

“He was a professional boxer, a very fit man. He’d have his raw egg and sherry every morning, he always did his exercises. I wouldn’t do them for him. He’d be down doing his press-ups, and I’d say ‘I don’t need to do any of that’,” she says with a smile.

Avoiding Covid

As well as her indoor exercises, she also goes for a walk at least once a day.

“I used to go in around town, but I don’t do that now. I don’t like going near crowds, I don’t want to get the Covid. I just go for a walk around here. I don’t go anywhere where there’s an incline, I avoid that. And you can’t use an umbrella on a wet day when you’re walking with the walker.”

Her biggest motivation to keep going and to stay fit, she says, is to ensure that she can remain living in her home for the past almost 62 years.

“I’m here on my own. My husband is dead, my three children are married. Two live in America and the other lives in Walkinstown. But I don’t want to go to a nursing home. I like the peace here, and being able to do what I want.”