Longtime Y Member Finds Community and Fellowship at the Y

30 September 2019
Marcella Maxwell

I’m 91 years old and I’ve had a lot of rich and exciting experiences in my life. Exercise has always been a central part of my journey. 

Growing up in Brooklyn, I was the oldest of four children. I started swimming when I was in high school and loved it. I went to Long Island University in Brooklyn and became an elementary school teacher. One of my most rewarding life experiences was teaching English as a second language in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Eventually, I became a founding dean at Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights. Fortunately, I also served as Chair of the City’s Human Rights Commission of the Status of Women under the leadership of Mayor Ed Koch.

Exercise is what kept me going through it all. It’s the key to health and longevity.

"I’m 91 and exercise has always been central in my life, since I was young. I take aqua aerobics with a group of 20 women. The majority of us are seniors, and we’ve all become close friends. We’re dedicated, devoted, and determined. And I feel more vigorous and have more energy because of the YMCA." - Dr. Marcella Maxwell


I joined the Harlem YMCA over a decade ago. I work with a trainer, Dante Johns, every morning. I also participate in aqua aerobics classes every day, five days a week. I belong to a group of 20 women who work with John Que. He’s a very dynamic instructor and we all love him. The exercise makes us all feel good and increases the blood flow. The majority of us are seniors, and the Y is sensitive to our needs. I feel better, more vigorous, and have more energy because of my aqua aerobics classes.

The women have also bonded and become close friends. We go to the theater, travel together, and celebrate birthdays together. We are dedicated, devoted, and determined to help each other age gracefully. We’re like a family. The YMCA connects people everywhere I go. It is an invaluable resource in every community.