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Just Keep Swimming: Vern Jacobs' story of dedication

Vern Jacobs proves age is just a number and that water can be magic.

PUTNAM, Ill. — According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the average age of retirement in the United States is 64. 

But, if you take a drive to Putnam, Illinois, you can meet a man who blows that number out of the water. 

Vern Jacobs has been at the helm of the Lake Thunderbird Association's water aerobics class for nearly 20 years. 

"I think it's wonderful. It's my only form of exercise," says Barbara Gurrister a long time student. 

Another student, Diane Jackson, says she's lost 15 pounds from taking Vern's classes. 

For some students, the class also offers camaraderie. 

"It’s a lot of widows and widowers out here and we help each other out," says Gurrister. 

But for Vern, the class and the water are an escape.

"It's invigorating to me," says Vern. "And I know it’s actually very good because of the exercise part of it."

So good for him, that he's at the pool six days a week. 

"[It] doesn’t matter if it’s cold or warm or drizzling- he’s here," says Joan Augustine- another student. 

But Vern's fondness for floating dates back long before his days at Lake Thunderbird. 

"I learned to swim in a crick- a creek!" remembers Vern. 

"Oh he loves the water," says Vern's daughter, Joan Jacobs. "He’s always loved the water. He was a lifeguard when he was, you know, young."

And Vern is "young" enough to remember a time most people had to read about in their history books.

"1926 I was born. During the [Great] Depression," said Vern. "I graduated from high school in 1944."

While most of his students know Vern's age, for some, it's still shocking. 

 "I didn’t know he was 94!" says Jackson "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!"

"I’m going to be 95," says Vern with a smirk. 

But his age is just a number when he is afloat.

"Yeah, he’s amazing," says his daughter.

"I do all the exercises many times," confirms Vern.

But, his age grounds him when he walks ashore. 

“C’mon up dad” says his daughter. Encouraging Vern to come up the ramp out of the pool. 

"I stay in the [wheel]chair most of the time when I'm here because it’s just easier for my daughter to just wheel me in and out [of the pool]" says Vern.

"He’s been doing that for three years now and only because he has that spinal stenosis which does something to the muscles in his leg," explains his daughter. "So his legs don’t want to work sometimes."

Vern may be restricted to a chair on land, but in the water, he's free. 

"Oh yeah, [I have] a lot of freedom in the water," says Vern.

After all, water can also be fun. 

"Dance time!" shouts Vern at the end of class. 

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