January 3, 2023 – Tom Brady, QB of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (or cousin Tom as we call him in our family), is 45.5 years old, having a pretty darn good season, with his team atop the NFC South standings. By all historical measures, he is a freak, performing as well or better than his peers who are 10 and 20 years younger. But he is not the only “older” person who is breaking records in a younger person’s field. How about you, are you still going strong in some vocation or avocation, astounding your peers with your ability to hang in there?
The NY TImes just profiled a group of senior aged citizens who are doing great in some physically and mentally demanding jobs. They wrote about Jesse Izaguirre – a paramedic who is 70, an 84 year old NYC City tour guide, a doctor who is 85, and a 95 year old artist, among others. Earl Pollock, who at 82 is still in the logging business, summed it up this way: “I keep the job on my mind 24/7, I guess I’ll stay till I can’t get up in the morning.” The Times used Census Data to help identify these outstanding specimens of tenacity.
The upshot – we’re not finished yet!
The people reading this Blog are mostly 55 and over- a lot younger than the “old” people profiled in the Times’ article. So it is clear we are not finished yet, whether we are retired, still working, or somewhere in between (many of us). Let’s look at some of the factors that might come into play for people to be successful beyond the normal age in a job.
Tom Brady is an excellent example. His regimen for staying fit and healthy is legendary. Reports are that he works out 4 or 5 times a week, using resistance bands, massage balls, and vibrating foam rollers. He also does mental exercises to keep sharp, along with mindfulness exercises. He mostly eats plant based foods and tries to limit trans and saturated fats. Clearly he is not going to prevail against the young monsters trying to smash him into the field without a lot of hard work and preparation.
We can do the same – if we work at it. Schedule regular physical exercise appropriate for our age. Yoga, pilates, regular stretching are all great things to do. If you can afford a personal trainer or nutritionist, that would be a plus, even if you do it for a limited time to get recommendations for the activities you like to do. Many people go to the gym, but they have no real plan for what exercises or equipment they will use. The results could even be negative, resulting in injury or loss of flexibility. Sitting around and not getting any exercise, and eating the wrong foods, is not going to help us set any records.
Mentally there is plenty we can do to stay sharp. Learning to play an instrument, speak a new language, take up a new hobby, and word games are all great. Anything that breaks up the normal patterns and makes you think in new ways is probably going to help slow down our aging brains.
Some good examples
We want to hear about people you know who are blowing out the age curve in a given activity. We know a few too, all of whom work at staying young and flexible. My brother Mike shoots his age (72) or better quite often in golf, and he is playing as well or better than when he played on his college team. My tennis partner Justin is 89. Last summer we won a lot more doubles matches than we lost, thanks to his durability and tennis smarts. Lucy Burdette’s writing pals are still going strong. One is in her 80’s, is on the best sellers list, and writes 2 and 1/2 books a year! For that matter, it seems like most of our political leaders are long past youthfulness. But whether you like their politics or not, most of them remain amazingly effective in their jobs.
So who do you know who is outperforming their age stereotype? And what are their secrets? Please share your examples in the Comments section below. We could all use these good examples in our own lives. Obviously there is a certain amount of luck involved too – avoiding accidents and illnesses and the like. As Dianne McIntyre, the 76 year old dancer put it in the Times article, “Longevity is really a gift.”