Year Four of the Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete program is off to an exciting start! From writing insightful blog posts, to hosting live presentations on pickleball, movement, and weightlifting, it’s been a busy few months for our five amazing older adult athletes.
May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, and we’ve been celebrating with free online fitness classes for older adults. Now, we’re checking in with the Sponsored Athletes before ending the month together with a special event! Read on for some helpful health tips, and join us this afternoon, May 31, at 3:00pm EDT on the AARP Virtual Community Center for a live virtual session: “Meet and Move With the Senior Planet Athletes!” Registration is required for this event.
Q: What are some of the challenges of being an older adult athlete, and how have you adapted to stay active? What does “Aging with Attitude” mean to you?
Della, 64: The biggest challenge I had to overcome was getting into the right state of mind about working out with intensity. I never had the mindset of pushing myself physically before. As an older person, I always thought that I wouldn’t be able to work out with vigor. I was also afraid of getting hurt. As it turns out, I was much stronger than I thought! Paying attention to proper technique and form allowed me to push past the limitations in my mind. This is something that I must continuously practice with every passing year as I get older.
“I actually feel stronger and more vibrant — both physically and mentally — than I did in my forties.” -Della
“Aging with Attitude” means that I am not going to accept the status quo, or the norm of what society expects of an older person. I am not going to accept the idea that I should slow down and take it easy. With my change in lifestyle that includes intense exercise and performance-based nutrition, I actually feel stronger and more vibrant — both physically and mentally — than I did in my forties.
Rick, 72: First, accept that things aren’t the same as they were 50 years ago (knees, hip joints, speed, quickness, balance)… but know that it will be surprising what you CAN do, which is a lot! I used to play competitive volleyball, but my knees couldn’t handle the jumping anymore. I decided to substitute pickleball, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I also bike and do some weightlifting to keep up muscle tone and strength, and to prevent injury. Keep moving, whatever it is that you can enjoy doing.
“We all have a different situation. Don’t compare yourself too much, and do what YOU can do.” -Rick
My attitude is I am NOT going to “act my age.” I am using the motto: “Be your best and have fun.” From what we thought we knew 50 years ago, aging meant losing all your mobility and only sitting in a chair… not true! I am surprised how well I can do many things, and the Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes are great examples of what you can accomplish. I think we have to be individuals in our thinking. We all have a different situation. Don’t compare yourself too much, and do what YOU can do. By working at it, you can improve and participate in the activities that you enjoy.
Kathy, 73: The first thing that comes to mind is that, at some level, my brain still thinks like a kid or young adult. Sometimes I believe that I’m capable of just jumping into a sport with no stretching or warmup, and that I will have no sore muscles or stiffness after playing. I have learned the hard way that this belief is sooooo false!
Having learned the hard way, I do about 20-30 minutes of foam rolling, stretching, and dynamic warmups before I begin any workout or sport. CrossFit workouts are modified so that I am still challenged and walk away feeling like I had a good workout. For other sports like pickleball that require some running, I work on improving other skills of the game that will help me not have to run as much.
“At times we are looked at as ‘too old’ to be working out or playing a sport. It is getting better, but that viewpoint is still prevalent.” -Kathy
Another challenge is how the younger generation(s) perceive the older adult athlete. At times we are looked at as “too old” to be working out or playing a sport. It is getting better, but that viewpoint is still prevalent. My attitude is that I will do what is necessary to stay healthy. So, I would say my attitude is one of determination along with commitment.
Gerry, 75: Unfortunately, many of us did not care for our bodies when we were younger. This creates challenges for us as we grow older and try to keep in shape. I have adapted by creating a daily exercise routine. It is important to train our bodies to maintain strength and overall health. My 93-year-old mom’s doctor tells her that she must exercise and walk daily to keep up her active lifestyle. I take this guidance seriously because I want to live into my 90s.
“Taking care of your mind and body keeps us young at heart, the ideal attitude to have in our golden years!” -Gerry
Aging with Attitude means growing older with a sense of purpose and determination. This includes taking care of your mind and body to allow you to do the things you love and explore new hobbies in retirement. This keeps us young at heart, the ideal attitude to have in our golden years!
Richard, 70: My biggest challenge to being active as a senior was overcoming the belief that I was too limited by previous injuries. Close behind was the denial of just how unfit I really was. “Hey, I’m not that bad off!” But I was… It took a few slaps in the face of my grandfather’s voice: “Growing old isn’t for the faint of heart,” to make me acknowledge my mess.
I overcome these limitations with courage and a commitment to safety. The discoveries that I could adapt to CrossFit and later, start running again, were game-changers. (Nothing like seeing results to keep you going!) An ongoing challenge is learning how to balance workload and recovery.
“‘Aging with Attitude’ is a combination of gratitude and determination not to squander the gift.” -Richard
I’ve been given the proverbial second chance at vitality, so for me, “aging with attitude” is a combination of gratitude and determination not to squander the gift.
Keep up with the team all throughout the year at www.seniorplanet.org/athletes.
In need of a little motivation to get moving? Join our daily health and wellness programs, subscribe to Senior Planet on YouTube, sign up for our weekly newsletters, and follow us on social media (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) to get to know these awe-inspiring athletes. You might just find a new love for fitness along the way!
Sean Cruse is the Communications Manager at Senior Planet & OATS from AARP. He has worked in nonprofit and social good communications for the last 10 years. Sean is involved with all things Senior Planet communications, from email newsletters (sign up here!) to creative projects. He also co-leads the Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete program and loves helping our team of amazing senior athletes share their stories.