Helene is 62 years old and is frequently described as the “energizer bunny” in the early morning dance aerobics class at the YMCA. She inspires those of us in the back row, while she in turn is inspired by our instructor, Jean. After a 30-year career as a social studies and language arts teacher, Helene is finally finding time to be active, make that very active. She enjoys many activities: early morning walks (as in 5:30 am early!), dance aerobics, spin classes, strength training, and pickle ball. “For me, exercise must be fun and not boring; that is why I love a new challenge, like pickle ball.” She also values group exercise. “I love the social aspect of group classes; for me it adds to the fun.”
In addition to her active lifestyle, she is an engaged volunteer in her community. “When I retired I knew I would miss the nurturing, helping aspects of teaching so I channeled those feelings into my volunteer work.” When she was working full-time and raising her family, she never had time to volunteer and she finds her new volunteer work very fulfilling. Her exercise activities and her volunteering contain the element that is most important to her: social relationships. And, she is right on target with her belief that social relationships help her age well. In the mid-1990s two social science researchers defined “successful aging.” The three pillars of successful aging are the absence of disease and disability, maintaining physical and cognitive function, and involvement in social activities and productive pursuits. Since the original concept, many papers have been published to support that social activities and maintaining a strong social network are important to optimal aging. People, like Helene, who are altruistic, positive, and value maintaining social relationships rate their own health as better than others who are not as engaged. And, that positive attitude helps in times of stress that we all face as we age.
When asked if she has faced any challenges with her post-retirement life, she says “not yet,” but she often wonders if pushing herself too hard in some activities might lead to injury. “It is a fine line between working at capacity without hurting yourself as you get older.” Right now, she is balancing on the line like an Olympic gymnast!
She recommends that younger adults make time for themselves and start exercising before they retire. “I know that it is hard to carve out time for yourself when you are working, raising kids, and dealing with the everyday chores in a home, but my advice to young people is to start early to make exercise a part of your life so that it is an ingrained habit.”
Chris Rosenbloom and Bob Murray welcome your questions about Food & Fitness After Aging at Ask Your Question Here. Their book is now available for pre-order Amazon pre-order
About Pickleball Pickleball is one of the fasting growing sports among older adults. The paddle sport, played indoors or outdoors, is a cross between tennis, table tennis, and badminton. According to the official pickleball association, the game was invented in the mid-1960s to entertain bored kids during summer vacation. The game is played with a paddle and a whiffle ball, hitting over a net in a specific-sized court. There is some uncertainty about the name; one story says it was named for a pickle boat. In crew, the leftover oarsmen from other teams are used to row the “pickle boat.” Since the game was made up using leftover equipment from other sports, the name is fitting. Yet, others say the game was named after Pickles, the dog of one of the inventors used loved to carry off the whiffle ball. Either way, the name Pickleball stuck. Learn about pickleball at this link.