Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode  087 Stay fit – for what?

A 16-year-old Iowa farm boy is said to the fittest 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 Grandville Island in Vancouver . A casual conversation was entered into 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. That is when he enlightened me. “Staying fit for what?” he asked.

A light went on in my mind as 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 that we were when we were 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, jump higher and further, but that’s 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 as we have ever been.

I’m thinking of work skills that may have been accrued over many fields in the past 50 years. We have worked our ways through the labor market. Many of us have read the classics as well as recent best sellers. We have seen the great movies and heard the great music. We have visited many of the historical sites. We have drunk cocktails on the beach and in the revolving restaurant. We have biked the back roads, pulled the all night drunks, and basked in the sun on sandy beaches.

We have gained 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, land, etc. too soon. We have failed to save enough money for rainy days. We have run up credit card debt enough 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 wouldn’t do 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 should leave us much more understanding of others. “The school of hard knocks” should have left a mark. I remember my mother when she was in her eighties and she seemed so much more tolerant of what she once considered not acceptable; homosexuality, drug usage, youthful sex, living together yet not being married – living in sin, she called it. All of these became something of which she extended understanding in her later years. 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 people who are receiving their PhDs, shooting a hole-in-one, or creating community improvements when they are well into the retired years.

A friend of mine, Dick Smith, who also produces podcasts for this program, is a great example. He recently joined a group of folks at a Senior Center in a memoirs writing group. He told me that it has 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 enjoys a good glass of wine with dinner.  He recently said, “I continue to find life just so interesting."  Dick is 82.

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 need to broaden the scope. Staying fit requires eternal effort in many areas.


This is Retirement Talk.




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