Adapted from a CBS news story
If you’re nearing or past retirement age you’re far from alone. The number of people age 65 and older around the world hit 506 million last year. At the current rate that number will nearly double by 2040. While everyone grows older, a growing number of Xtreme Geezers are simply not acting their age. It’s true both for famous sportsmen and amateur athletes. There’s even a substantial trend in people nearing retirement age and STARTING their life as an athlete.
On the same day that 81-year-old Hershel McGriff became the oldest driver ever to run a NASCAR race, golfer Tom Watson almost won the British Open at 59. At the grueling Tour de France, 37-year-old Lance Armstrong is in 2nd place after sitting out nearly four years.
Lance Armstrong says his inspiration was Constantina Tomescu Dita, who won last summer’s Olympic women’s marathon at 38. And then there’s 41-year-old supermom Dara Torres, who won three silver medals at those games. Or gymnast Oksana Chusovitina finishing 9th in the individual all around at 33 – twice the age of many of her rivals.
So what should the amateur athlete who is starting to feel those years take from all this. It’s very simple, if the pros can do it at the elite level, we can do it at the level we choose, regardless of age.
The trend is more than just a statistical blip or a few anecdotes. In track and field the average age of an American Olympic athlete has gone up almost 4 years, from 23.4 in 1980 to 26.8 last year. For amateur athletes the numbers are far more impressive. Historically a tiny percentage of marathon entrants were over age 40. Last year, it was almost half.
The question is, why? According to CBS it’s because nutrition and sports medicine have improved. According to Dr. Michael Kelly, chair of orthopedics at Hackensack Medical Center “They (older athletes) have core training as part of their fitness levels. They understand nutrition to a much better degree and they take care of themselves.” That’s certainly true, but there’s more to it that just that. In prior generations a certain gravitas was expected from older citizens. They were comfortable sitting out taxing activities and dangerous sports and just spectating.
Today Xtreme Geezers everywhere are ignoring the little aches and pains, training hard and smart, and enjoying their lives like never before. There’s simply no reason not to have the time of your life, for all your life.