Meet our YMCA Club veterans!

Following our big 175 birthday this year, we find out why two of our veteran YMCA Club members still keep coming back for more after all these years…

Albert from Wandsworth (left)

Retired Docker and former British Soldier, 85-year-old Albert from Wandsworth, attended our 175 Disco Zumba Gold Masterclass last month. He was one of around fifty Older Adult members decked out in retro fitness fancy dress. Our very own YMCA Communities Programme Manager, Declan Duncan, led the troops in a lime green 70s shell suit to the sound of Gloria Gaynor, Heatwave and Barry Manilow. A sight to behold!

Albert, who has been a member of the Club for around 25 years, thoroughly enjoyed the event:

“It was absolutely wonderful. We all got dressed up and were laughing and joking. Declan was excellent - he does everything correctly. I can’t fault him. I really loved it.”

“It’s a very friendly club”

Albert is a Zumba Gold, Body Sculpt and Tai Chi regular. It’s the sheer variety of what’s on offer that keeps him coming back for more:

“You’ve got equipment for everybody - machines, weights, swimming pool, sauna – everything. You can play badminton, table tennis or do yoga and Tai Chi. There’s nothing else I want. I can’t fault it – it’s excellent. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the best gym in the world.”

For Albert, it’s not only his health and fitness that’s important:

“Sometimes when I’m in the West End - even if I don’t have my gym gear with me - I come to the YMCA Club and have a little chat. I pop in, have something to eat and I always see somebody there. It’s a very friendly club.”

Happy Birthday YMCA!

Albert’s birthday message to the YMCA: “Keep going! Don’t stop!”


Michael from Covent Garden (right)

Retired City Banker, 76 year-old Michael from Covent Garden, became a member of the YMCA Club in 1990. An avid YMCA fan, Michael has collected all of the YMCA Club’s anniversary tee-shirts throughout the decades and has stayed in many YMCAs around the world including Jerusalem, Sydney, Brisbane, New York, Cape Town and Deli.

Nearly 30 years later, Michael still does yoga, stretching and swims in the Club’s pool in Great Russell Street for an hour nearly every day at 6.30am, followed by a sauna and steam:

“I like to keep fit. Somebody said to me, after the age of 70, it’s all repair, repair, repair! When you get to a certain age, it’s important to have contact with people. There are a few of us who meet up in the sauna after we’ve had our swim – we call ourselves the sauna mafia! The pool is always wonderful - they re-did it two years ago and made a wonderful job of it. It shows that they want to keep things up to date, which is how it should be.”

“They completely rehabilitated my hip”

20 years ago, the YMCA Club helped Michael recover from his left hip operation, when he was ravaged by arthritis:

“I came here straight after the operation. The staff were absolutely brilliant – they completely rehabilitated my hip when I had it replaced. They helped me exercise in the pool and saw me up the stairs when I had a walking stick. They helped me with stretching and mobility and I used to do hip extensions in the pool. They made sure I didn’t overdo it and helped me out of the pool, which was really good. I was back at work five weeks after the operation! That’s one thing I remember - it’s just a wonderful club.”

“It’s the interaction as well as the fitness”

As a life-long asthma sufferer, swimming helps Michael’s lungs stay in better condition, but ultimately, it’s the people, who have a made a huge difference to Michael’s experience:   

“The wonderful thing about the YMCA Club is that it’s so integrated on every level. I love the company and the people who come here. OJ’s Café is nice – I meet friends there for a coffee or a smoothie. There are about eight of us who are close friends and we socialise together outside of the Club too. There are dozens more who I talk to. The staff are lovely - they know you and they’re friendly. The facilities are second to none, but there’s that interaction with people - the banter, the craic, the friendliness and the pleasantness too.”

Here’s to another 175 years!

A parting birthday wish from Michael:

“I’m not surprised you’re 175 years of age. The YMCA Club is part and parcel of my life. I can’t get going without it and if I can’t get there to swim and work out, then my day is affected. The YMCA is the very best – it’s a wonderful club with a wonderful atmosphere. Happy Birthday YMCA and thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Claire.Gilderson | 12 June 2019