Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode  385 (087) Stay fit – for what?

A 16 year old Iowa farm boy is said to the most fit person in America. I read that somewhere many years ago. Since I was once a 16 year old Iowa farm boy, I can speak from experience on the topic. I was fit for some things at age 16 and living in Iowa, but certainly not many.

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

This morning I was doing some strength training at a gym on Granville Island in Vancouver. I entered into a casual conversation  with another man about my age. I told him that it seemed like the older I got the more time I needed to devote to staying fit. He responded with “Staying fit for what?"

A light went on in my mind. I admitted he was so correct in that observation. He went on to add that at 65 we are probably much more fit for almost everything than we were when we 16. We need to be aware of this and enjoy the retirement years when we are indeed “fit”. 

At 16 I could run faster, lift more weight and jump higher. But that is about it. Considering life and all of its demands, that’s not much. There are huge areas of life skills where we retired people must be as fit or more fit than we have ever been.

I’m thinking of work skills that may have accrued in the past fifty  to sixty years. We have learned the value of patience, asking for advice and staying with a project. We have worked our way through the labor market. Many of us have read the classics as well as recent best sellers. We have seen great movies and heard great music. We have visited historical sites, morned at funerals and woke with massive hangovers. We have biked backroads, studied all night and been at our wits end concerning getting enough money to pay the rent.

We have gain the strength that comes with making many mistakes. We have expected too much from some people. We have counted on luck when hard work and perseverance was what was required.  We sold the house, stocks, or land too soon. We have failed to save enough money for rainy days. We have run up enough credit card debt to know to never do it again. We have loved the wrong one and stayed, or loved the right one and left. We have learned.

Staying fit is an all encompassing goal. It isn"t enough to be fit for one thing only; we want to be fit for life. That is much different than being able to stack bailed hay all day, run a marathon, or do the hundred yard dash.

Our experience of having tried and failed many times in life leaves us more understanding of others. “The school of hard knocks” leaves a mark. My mother was much more tolerant in her eighties than at any age prior. What she once considered not acceptable; homosexuality, drug usage, youthful sex or living together yet not being married became understandable if not acceptable. For her generation and cultural background these were big steps towards being more “fit” for life. Self-righteousness had matured into tolerance for different ideas and behavior.

Luckily for us, examples of continued fitness abound. We can’t open the paper without finding stories of older people who are receiving their PhDs, shooting a whole-in-one, or creating community improvements when they are well into the retired years.

A few years ago a friend of mine joined a group at a Senior Center in a memoirs writing group. He told me that it evolved into a place for self-examination and self-affirmation. The participants are all retired and still involved in staying fit. He also designs and builds geodesic domes. He bikes for his morning paper each day. He participates in a political protest group that meets every week and expresses political opinions concerning whatever is currant. He reads the New York Times, best sellers, and classics. He continues to camp with his wife in his RV and enjoy a good glass of wine with dinner.  He recently said, “I continue to find life just so interesting."  He is eighty-eight years old.

When I told my new acquaintance in the fitness center that the older I got the more time it took to stay fit, I meant physically. I needed to broaden my understanding. Staying fit requires eternal effort in many areas.

This is Retirement Talk with something to think about.





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