May 31, 2016

You remember me, I’m sure! Today, I am an Octogenarian. That means I am in my 80’s!

How can that be?

Yet, it was only yesterday that I threw that winning pass for the New York Giants in the NFL Championship…(note: this was before the Super Bowl). While last month, I sunk that overtime goal that guaranteed the Bruins victory against the Montreal Canadians to win the Stanley Cup. Maybe, you remember when under great pressure, I forced Willis Reed to foul me so that my Celtics would move on to the final playoff round for the BBAA, (Today, the NBA), championship.

Of course, all of the foregoing was not real. I was 20, 25, 30 or, at the most, 35. I had no continuing aches and pains. I had never heard of arthritis. My heart was strong and I didn’t suffer from Asthma. Constant leg cramps, which would wake me up many a nights from a sound sleep, just didn’t exist.

Today, those maladies are commonplace among a great deal of my brethren, but no one should despair, we older folks have a lot of fight left in us.

We could sit around, moping and contemplating about how many Sunsets we have left. Or like most of us, we refuse to leave Planet Earth sitting on our duffs and as I said looking at each Sunset. Instead, we realize that life has taught us how to live.

So what if Mother Nature, in the course of normal aging, has taken the zip of our fastball. She no longer will let us lead a fast break, jump as high as we used to, throw a punch with the same speed and alacrity, or play in March Madness.

What she has done, is to allow us to compensate by substituting new sports, exercises and physical challenges geared to helping us lead as healthy and normal a life as we can. All this is done without taxing our bodies too much. She has taught us to use the tools we have been left with.

In essence, by seeking new physical endeavors, we become the teenagers of the future.

As a former member of the “President’s Council of Physical Fitness” I was exposed to a great number of statistics that I hope you will find interesting. Tennis and Golf are some of the favorites among elderly men. My 70 year old friend Dan Millis, once a top tennis player, feels the comparatively new sport of Pickleball fills his needs.

Among the studies that I have always remembered was one from The Idraettens Institute of Denmark. Their statistical results paralleled those of most countries including the United States.

For example, I learned that women prefer recreational sport in groups. Among them are yoga, zumba, pilates, spinning, tap dance, and aerobics.  Many Parkinson’s sufferers use Boxing (sparring) to help control the ailment.

Men, on the other hand, to a larger extent want to be able to compete. They want to measure their performance against themselves or others. To this end as I may have mentioned earlier, golf, softball, cycling, jogging and tennis are some of the favorites.

In addition to friendly daily, or weekly games, organized age group competitions have developed. California Senator Alan Cranston competed as a Senior Sprinter in major track meets well into his eighties. He lived to be 86.

Dr Paul Dudley White, considered the founder of preventive Cardiology, advocated for Cycling for good cardio fitness. He is in the Cycling Hall of Fame. There are Cycling paths named for him throughout New England. Where for over 50 years, he would ride 30 miles daily from his home to his office. He was 87 when he passed.

For the most part, the elderly want to do sports, or exercise during the day and 63% exercise before noon. As a rule, 58% of the elderly prefer exercising in nature/ forests (27%)— hiking, walking; on roads and sidewalks (20%— cycling, jogging; fitness centers (11%).

Elderly people are the most satisfied age group when it comes to utilizing facilities and arenas for sport. Lest we forget, it is the elderly who point out that the facilities and arenas have the biggest influence of their sports participation.

If you have been active while growing up, it is necessary that you stay active in your senior years. Health is the biggest barrier among the 32% of the elderly who remain inactive. As a matter of fact, many inactive elderly think they have become to old to exercise.

To me, as an elderly man who finds the gym both a physical and social boon, this lazy kind of thinking is tantamount to shutting yourself out of the chance for a continuing healthy lifestyle.

Inactive women are hindered to a large extent by bad health and bad physical shape. While inactive men lack interest and spend the time wasting away each day. There has to be a way of using different techniques to stimulate inactive men to become physically active.

Activity has a great positive social affect when the elderly person becomes part of a group and joins others. Exercise is a positive which helps with continuing good health and maintaining physical skills.

Studies tell us that new generations of elderly bring new tendencies in sports participation. They learn that much of the skill set they once possessed has eroded. There is only one alternative… compromise; do the same things, but in moderation.

Still more elders want to do specific sports as well as trying to continue doing the type of sport they did previously. However, we must learn to do these sports in modification. Every activity needs to be tempered.

The competitive flames still burn, but for most, the body moves on. However, with exercise and moderate competition, enjoyment of a healthy being and lifestyle is possible.

Albert Einstein, the World-Renowned Physicist felt strongly that a healthy mind is a product of a physically fit body. He always felt that when it came to fitness and strength it was best to stick to the basics.

This scrawny academic had a set daily pattern of weights and cardio. He never deviated. From his laboratory on the Princeton Campus to his home, he never rode, or drove a car. A bicycle, or his feet were his chosen mode of transportation. He was 87 when he died.

Satchell Paige, the great African-American Pitcher spent most of his best years toiling in the Negro Leagues. Long after the color barrier had been broken by Jackie Robinson, Bill Veeck, brought him to pitch in the Major Leagues with the Cleveland Indians.

Many who faced him including the great Joe DiMaggio thought he was the best pitcher of all time. Yet, he did not throw a Major League pitch until he was almost 50 years old.

His age, until he died, remained a mystery. Often, when asked how old he was, his answer was; “ How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are”.

He would also answer that same question with two other significant quotes; “Don’t look back something might be gaining on you” and “ Work like you don’t need the money… dance like nobody’s watching”.

Satchell was always in shape. He pitched his last MLB game at age 59. However, until he died at age 76, he could be found on any sandlot in Kansas City pitching batting practice, giving advice to youngsters, or just socializing. He lived life to the fullest.

The morale of today’s column, if there is one, is simply that sports and exercise is a great outlet as a way to stay healthy. You do not have to be a sports star, or a celebrity. Participation and making yourself available is what will always bear fruit.

Once I could run and jump. I never enjoyed working out in a gym. Today, I am a devotee of Dr. Einstein.

Why can’t I do Physics???????

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