Former U.S. Navy pilot Cey Zwirn used to spend his time in the air; now he’s spending it by land, walking nine miles every week throughout Primrose Retirement Community.
The 95-year-old veteran said staying active is important throughout life, but especially in his senior years. In fact, it was in the hopes of living many more years that he modified his exercise schedule to bump up his heart rate more days of the week.
“I used to walk three miles three times a week, but recently I came back from the dining room and caught the tail end of an interview with our medical doctor,” he said.
Zwirn said the doctor was talking about a study that was done that recommended 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. The people who hit that mark, he said, were 50 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
“That interested me because I know some people who have Alzheimer’s disease, and I don’t want it,” Zwirn said.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the answer to whether exercise can prevent memory loss and improve cognitive function is “possibly.”
That’s enough for Zwirn, so he switched from walking three miles three times a week to walking a mile-and-a-half six times a week.
“Physical activity seems to help your brain not only by keeping the blood flowing but also by increasing chemicals that protect the brain. Physical activity also tends to counter some of the natural reduction in brain connections that occurs with aging,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “More research is needed to know to what degree adding physical activity improves memory or slows the progression of cognitive decline. Nonetheless, regular exercise is important to stay physically and mentally fit.”
Zwirn has been at Primrose Retirement Community since August 2008. He was one of the first residents to move in, as the facility opened in June of that year.
Zwirn said he’s enjoying living out his life there and reflected on his earlier years that led him to the City of Firsts. He grew up in Brooklyn and enlisted in the Navy at age 19 in August 1942, just a year after Pearl Harbor took place.
He had hopes of being in combat, but that never panned out for him. His training, which began in 1943 and was supposed to take nine months, was extended to 24 months as new subjects kept being added to the program. By the time he got his wings, the war was over.
The first feeling he felt was disappointment, he said.
“I enlisted for the sole purpose of getting into action. With that realization, it didn’t take too long, but it took a little while to get over the idea that I missed something I was looking for,” he said. “I finally came to the realization that if I had gotten into combat, I might not be talking right now. So I was satisfied. I was at peace about it, but there for a while I was disappointed.”
Despite missing out on being in action, Zwirn got an expansive education, and he was able to fly an array of planes over the years he was with the Navy. Being stationed at Bunker Hill Naval Academy introduced him to Indiana and its citizens, including the late Roberta Weddle, whom he married when he separated from the Navy in 1947. They were married for 62 years.