Maybe it’s because they emigrated from the Netherlands as newlyweds 56 years ago that John and Judy Lukassen share a special bond.

The Howard City residents, who are 82 and 81 respectively, swim together three times a week. They do errands together. They finish each others’ sentences.

And, recently, they did physical therapy together at Spectrum Health Outpatient Rehabilitation located at the Rockford MVP Athletic Club.

After John, a retired school custodian, had back surgery in April, he was eager to get back to his normal activities.

With approval from his surgeon, John started swimming again, but back-related nerve damage  caused pain and weakness in his leg.

That’s when the doctor prescribed physical therapy. John went to recover from back surgery, and he suggested Judy join him for help with the scoliosis that’s been part of her life for 30 years.

“I did all kinds of work,” John said. He used a treadmill, weight machines and, of course, stretches and exercises at home.

Judy, a former library aide, agreed this was a perfect time for her to get help for her back. Thanks to the treatments, the pain is under control although she still has weakness by the end of the day.

That’s when John reminds her it’s time to rest and take it easy.

That kind of partnership and caring extended into their therapy routine.

“They really were cheerleaders for each other,” physical therapist Sarah Van Soest said. “They encouraged each other and held each other accountable. It was fun to work with them.”

Because the couple is older, Van Soest needed to take therapy a little slowly and help them understand it’s not always a straight road to recovery.

Despite normal ups and downs, the Lukassens kept a positive attitude.

“They loved every exercise I gave them,” Sarah said. “And they loved learning about their bodies and how to improve themselves.”

The Lukassens considered their experience to be a positive one from start to finish.

“You walk in, and the first thing you see is a smile,” John said. “With them, you are not a number.”

It’s not the first time they’ve been to physical therapy over the years. But they say it’s their favorite.

“We like this one best, we really do,” Judy said. “I would say they go the extra mile.”