Boomer writer Mike Petrie, who lives in Southern California, embodies the demographic of BoomerCafé’s readers: baby boomers with active lifestyles. But he wonders, why do some boomers act like they’re so much older?
In your fifties, maybe even your sixties, and feeling too old to do things you used to do? Oh come on people! Get real. For several years now when paddling my board out to go surfing, I’ve been noticing fewer and fewer guys my age out there on the waves with me. Hey, not that I mind all that much . . . fewer surfers means more waves all to myself. But there’s also noticeably fewer fellow boomer bike riders and joggers too. What gives?
The proverbial straw that broke this camel’s back was when I called a buddy -– age 58 -– to go sailing one sunny day and he told me, “Dude, I’d love to but I just don’t have the energy to be grinding winches, trimming sails, and all that rot.” This is a guy who used to absolutely live for being out on the ocean with a stiff breeze in his face. Is old age taking over the boomer generation? It shouldn’t be. Because when you think about it, we are not really all that old.
One only need look to an even older generation to discover that life does not need to slow down just because we hit a certain age. Some examples:
An article in the March 2011 Texas Bar Journal features 67-year-old attorney Larry Macon, who did not run his first 26.2 mile marathon until he was 55. The following year he ran two marathons. Each year he added more marathons and in the year 2009, at the age of 65, he finished an amazing 94 marathons in a single year! A busy lawyer with no plans to retire anytime soon, Macon actually took a conference call on his cell phone while running the Boston Marathon.
Closer to home, my mother-in-law, in her late 70s, regularly rides with her bike club, doing 50- and 100-mile road-bike trips and plays tennis several times a week. My 80-year-old uncle races Laser sailboats. Recently he won a second-place trophy against competitors 30 or more years younger.
Speaking of older sailors, I wrote an article in SAIL Magazine entitled Still Sailing After All These Years. It’s about 84-year-old Johnny Garau, who regularly surfed until well into his 70s and lives today on his 27-foot sailboat. Johnny can often be seen out on the ocean, boat heeling, wind in his gray hair, and a broad smile on his weathered face. In spite of his age, he retains a very youthful presence, and talking to him is like talking with a 40-year-old.
(To read this SAIL Magazine story, go to: www.calwriter.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=58%3Astill-sailing-after-all-these-years-&catid=34&Itemid=58 )
But, even Johnny is a mere youngster when compared to Lou Batori of Michigan, who at the age of 100 spends his winters as a Nastar competitive snow skier. In summer, when winter snow is gone, Lou goes on daily 20-mile bike rides up the same steep hills that he skis down in winter. When he’s not skiing or bike riding, Lou likes to travel around the country on his motorcycle. Go Lou!
Listen … these folks are ALL older than the oldest of Baby Boomers. They are still active, healthy, and vibrant. The key is to make sure Father Time doesn’t get the best of you. Nobody can guarantee that living actively will cause you to live longer … but your life will surely be a lot more fun and you’ll definitely feel younger and healthier. The time for slowing down is many years from now, once you really ARE old … not now.
Happily, not all boomers are slowing down. Among my circle of boomer friends-– most in mid-50s to early 60s –-one is a pilot who enjoys bicycle racing, kayaking, and raising his 5-year-old twin daughters; another works 60-plus hours a week as a lawyer, yet finds time to climb mountains, scuba dive, and play a weekly game of tennis; a female friend sky dives, plays tennis, and bikes; another races sailboats competitively, when not practicing medicine. I’m still doing all the things I’ve always done: working full-time, surfing, sailing, playing tennis, mountain biking, running 10Ks … not to mention still being in the process of raising my two young children.
The plan is to be MORE like my mother-in-law, my uncle, or Johnny Garau, or Larry Macon, or Lou Batori as I grow older. Check back with me in about 25 or 30 years to see how my plan is working out . . . hopefully you’ll find me jogging along the beach or paddling out into the surf.
Mike Kirkeberg says: March 17, 2011 at 9:02 am When I go somewhere there is going to be a herd of people my age, the first thing I often think is “where did all these old people come from?” If I look at a picture of myself in the group, chronologically, I don’t look any different? But so many people settle, fade into the background, and act older.
Lynne Spreen says: March 18, 2011 at 9:11 am Hidden due to low comment rating.
Arnie Alger says: March 18, 2011 at 11:18 am Mike, I could not agree more with you on this article. Death will come soon enough to us so why sit around and wait for it. Hell, let it be a surprise. arnie Well-loved.
Jerilyn Willin says: March 18, 2011 at 6:05 pm Loved this article and it is absolutely true. Age is a number and if you are healthy– get out there and enjoy life. I have friends who talk about their aches and how they are “slowing down”. And they are not even 60 years old yet. Well, thanks be to God, my aches and pains come from falling off my bike (the chain disengaged while I was shifting going uphill), a finger I broke volleying a ball back, and a sore back from sledding this winter. I don’t mind aches and pains if they come from fun.
Dr. Gee says: March 18, 2011 at 8:55 pm Totally enjoyed this piece. Found myself smiling, then laughing out loud. Utterly amazing to me that someone has taken this completely upbeat, positive, uplifting story and interpreted it as something negative. Lynne Spreen above suggests this author is narrow minded or should have second thoughts? Hardly. This author has hit the nail directly on its head. In fact, I intend to print this story and hang it on my wall for my patients to read and enjoy. Thank you for this most enjoyable story.
Alex says: March 18, 2011 at 9:09 pm Loved this! This writer has given us words to live by. After 40 or 50 a lot of folk feel themselves slowing down. It takes real effort sometimes to stay active. The effort is worth it! This writer and the others he mentions are living life the way it is supposed to be lived. God bless!
Lynne Spreen says: March 19, 2011 at 9:27 am Hidden due to low comment rating.
Jennifer says: March 19, 2011 at 11:43 am Mike is absolutely right. Although I am not an athlete, I believe that you’ve got to use it or lose it. I cannot allow myself to become sedentary and unable to do the things I want to do. My brain is young, and I want to keep my body that way as well. It is sad to see people just giving up because it gets a little harder.
Chris March 19, 2011 at 12:29 pm Completely agree with this writer. The old saying is “If you have your health, you have everything.” And staying active is the best way to keep your health! I’m 61 and tomorrow will run my 4th LA marathon. It is because I stay fit that I do not have any of the aches, pains, arthritis, etc. that I’m already hearing about from some of my contemporaries. My advice to all boomers is keep moving!! Move it or lose it. Well-loved.
Constance says: March 19, 2011 at 12:40 pm One must stay fit both physically and mentally. Interestingly, this writer mentions several people who are both physically active and in jobs that require brain power: doctors, lawyers, pilots. Is there a correlation? Could it be that the same sort of person with the discipline and effort to obtain high level educations and jobs will also take better care of their health?
Chris says: March 19, 2011 at 12:58 pm By the way, tomorrow’s LA marathon is not just for runners. It has participants who just walk and even those in wheel chairs. Take note Lynne Spreen, staying active is not limited to just those who “embody” the perfect physical abilities. These participants, especially those with impairments, are extremely motivated and certainly not lazy.If they can do it, certainly most boomers can … and should …as well.
Cheryl says: March 19, 2011 at 4:40 pm I think the point of this story was to point out that a growing number of otherwise healthy boomers are prematurly aging themselves by not being active. And I, for one, could not agree more. Too many of my friends and family are already overweight, inactive, and complaining of ailments that should belong to an older demographic. But it looks like Ms. Spreen will keep harping on the inability of some people to be active until someone agrees with her. So, ok. I’ll agree there are SOME human beings out there who are physically incapable of being active through no fault of their own. In fact, there are even people with bad hearts or whatever who probably should slow down and take it easy. Having said that, however, the VAST majority of baby boomers simply have no one to blame but themselves if they are feeling old, tired, sluggish before their time. I believe that people can pretty much accomplish any goal they set for themselves. I personally know a 67 year old blind skier who skis competitively and a 78 year old boater who sails his boat regularly … even though he lost a leg in a car crash 25 years ago. The marathon that Chris refers to also has runners with artificial limbs and sightless runners. It all depends on effort more than physical ability. The real issue here is, do you want life to slow you down, or are you willing to face whatever adversity may afflict you and pursue your goals in spite of them? Certainly the average healthy baby boomer has no true reason to be feeling old just yet. And from the comments here, many seem to agree.
Bluto says: March 20, 2011 at 6:13 pm I’m one of those boomers who is feeling older than I should. In school I was a pretty good athlete but that was a long time ago. Like a lot of guys I fool myself into thinking I’m still athletic because I sit on the sofa and watch sports on tv. Truth is I’m 52 with a huge mound of blubber that hangs over my belt. I get exhausted just mowing the grass and sex drive has dwindled to almost nill. Had a full physical exam recently and my doc says I’m 40 pounds overweight. This comes as no surprise because my mother, father, siblings are ….lets call it what it is …. my whole family is fat! After the doctor visit I started looking around on the internet for info and found this sight about boomers feeling older than they should. After reading this and the comments I was inspired to watch the LA marathon this morning. All those runners really inspirational as I was laying in bed watching, eating breakfast of coffee and a slice of cold pizza. I put the pizza down and went to the kitchen looking for a piece of fruit. The winner of the marathon never ran a marathon before, this was his first one. He not only won, but set a new LA marathon record of 2hrs 6 minutes. That’s when I decided ….. next year I am going to run in that marathon! I might be slow but my goal is to run the entire 26 miles. There are web sights that can help train properly. This writer talks about not seing many joggers or bike riders in his area. In my neighborhood I don’t see any! For sure I’ll be the only one out there running. This writer talks about his motherinlaw riding a bike and playing tennis. My mom is almost the same age. She walks with a cane and needs help getting in and out of a car. Ive got those same fat genes but dont want to end up like that. I have 4 daughters and my youngest is only 6 and I’d like to live long enough to see her grow up and maybe be a grandpa someday. The time for excuses is over. Today is the first day of spring and will hopefully be the first day of my new life feeling my true age instead of like some old man.
Humphrey says: March 22, 2011 at 12:04 am Fine. I’ll try and get motivated.
Tony says: March 22, 2011 at 12:54 pm The way to gauge how “youthful” a person is does not depend in the least on how tech savvy he is. What matters is whether he can still move and groove or whether he has become a couch potatoe. Sitting down working a computer, or spending an hour doing useless Facebook time ultimately slows you down physically. Go out and jog, shoot some hoops, ride a bike. And for gosh sake, put that pizza down!
Jack March 22, 2011 at 12:55 pm Boomers are just like every other segment of the population…some are active in sports, some music, some square dancing….it doesnt matter what they do as long as they do something that keeps their minds active…and eat alot of prunes!
Cathy says: March 22, 2011 at 1:14 pm Great article! Age is a number that we should not label ourselves with. I am 58 with two teenagers at home – that in itself equals any marathon. Love and happiness is how we all should live!!
Dr.Helen says: March 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm Great Article!Do not let age define you and limit your ability! It is all about attitude and being young at heart. I just turned 50 and still love to sail, race, fish, dive and in fact, I feel like I don’t have enough time to do all the things I love! Just do it! Life is short!
Marie arlene cameron says: March 26, 2011 at 7:50 pm I think those who act and feel “older” are those who don’t keep up with all the terrific scientific, technological and spiritual things happening around the world. For many social media and good computer skills present a steep learning curb. But the rewards are worth the effort. Many community colleges and adult schools attached to high schools offer basic computer classes. You can learn if you’re willing to put in the effort. My kids have taught me a lot about social networking, got me on Face Book and are proud of me. If we don’t keep up we’re left behind and that’s a sure way to feel old.
Max says: April 3, 2011 at 7:48 am Completely enjoyed this. And I’m extremely happy to read so many upbeat comments and so many thumbs down to the single derogatory comment.To Lynn Spreen who commented, “Gee, I should tell my deteriorating spine and hips that they really need to get moving!” My reply would be a resounding, YES! You probably should tell your spine and hips to get moving. You may find it helps. The best way to avoid degeneration is to keep moving. Our generation practically invented jogging. We need to keep at it, now more than ever.
Carol says: April 12, 2011 at 9:18 pm Why is there such a need to JOG? I think “not” growing old does require movement. but it is also an attitude! With that attitude will come “moving” as well as looking and acting as a younger person.
Colleen says: April 16, 2011 at 9:10 pm Indeed, a colleague of mine and me often hang out with a bunch of much younger folks. He always makes jokes about “the old folks like me and Colleen.” Excuse me friend, but if you want to consider yourself “old” that’s fine, but don’t put me in that box. Age truly is a state of mind. And I’m not having any part of OLD until I can’t get up out of my chair and hopefully I’ll have the decency to die before that happens.
Mike says: April 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm Many thanks to all of you who read this article and left such motivational comments. As a writer, it is my greatest validation for readers to comment on what I’ve written. In return, I’ll address several of your comments directly.
To Jerilyn … You are so right. I often hear from friends, many of them younger than me, about aches & pains. I almost feel guilty telling them that I feel no such aches and honestly feel pretty much the same as when I was 30. I think this is because I keep continuouly active. I still do all the same things and can still do them equally as well as ever (and some things I can actually do better now).
To Alex … YES!! It DOES take effort to keep active and yes it is totally worth the effort. You are 100% correct.
To Jennifer … You are totally correct, one need not be an athlete to remain active, but — as you said — if you don’t use it you will lose it … the “IT” is youthful vigor.
To Chris … I wholeheartedly agree, the best way to maintain health is to maintain fitness. Congrats on running the marathon … a huge achievement!
For me, running a marathon is a testament to a life lived actively. I ran my first 26 mile marathon when I was in my 30s & remember thinking, “Gee, I’m kinda old to just now be running my first marathon.” But, at mile 18 a much older man passed me like I was standing still. I later learned he was 72!! I talked to him after the race and he said he’d run about a dozen or so marathons in his life, that he tries to run one every few years. I was so impressed that I decided to set a goal for myself: To run at least one marathon per each decade of my life. So, in my 30s I ran the Honolulu Marathon; 40s L.A. Marathon; 50s Run Thru the Vines & San Diego Rock & Roll Marathons. In my 60s I’d luv to do one in Europe. When I hit my 70s, I’m hoping to pass a thirty-something runner at around mile 18 … God willing.
To Cheryl … You have captured the exact point I was trying to make with this article. Thank you. And I, too, firmly believe that people can pretty much accomplish any goal they set for themselves.
To Bluto … Wow!! I’m excited and impressed by your goals. Perhaps you might re-visit BoomerCafe a year from now and let us know how you do in the marathon, leave a comment updating your progress and how your life has changed. I’d be really interested in knowing how you’re doing.
To Max … I think your rebuttal to Ms. Spreen was probably right on target. Though, with all due respect to her, I have no idea what the state of her health may be, and this article was directed at “healthy” boomers who are feeling old prematurely.
To Carol … I see this as being sort of like the chicken & the egg: which came first? While I agree that attitude is important, it would be difficult to have a youthful attitude without actually “feeling” youthful … and the only way to truly feel youthful is to stay fit … whether by jogging, bicycling, hiking, whatever.
To Colleen … Seems like you have the exact right attitude, as Carol described: attitude is essential.
And to all the rest, my collective thank you. Your comments are all very much appreciated. This article for Boomer Cafe was a follow-up to my article in SAIL Magazine about an older sailor who I found inspirational. You can read that article online at: http://calwriter.net/sm/sm200912-1.htm
I hope readers will continue to follow me at Boomer Cafe, SAIL, and the other publications for which I write. Thanks for reading.
Renee Fisher says: May 3, 2011 at 12:53 pm Love this article. My husband is an avid sailor and he battles with rheumatoid arthritis each day. But he would never give up sailing.
Here’s my take on aging:
1.Live from vision. Vision has no age limit.
2.Stay as physically active as you possibly can. If anything happens that impairs that ability, get creative. Switch, or adapt.
3.Nurture your creative abilities. They explode at this age. Hang on for the ride.
4.Love your life and the people in it.
5.Celebrate each birthday.
6.Keep up with technology as best as you can. If you need help, ask your grandchildren.
CJ says: May 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm Thoroughly enjoyed this! Clicked on the other articles included here by this same author and must say that I love his style of writing. Every single one is uplifting, happy, well written and has a very real sense of joie de vivre. If I’m ever having a bad day I just may come back here and read them again.