Originally posted on NRPA’s Open Space blog on December 17, 2013.
December’s cover story by John Crompton focused on the evolving lifestyle and financial factors motivating today’s seniors toward recreation, and as I worked on editing this article and incorporating it into the rest of the magazine, it occurred to me that the seniors in my life have really found a wide range of ways to stay active and well. There are a bunch of stereotypes surrounding recreation for people of a certain age (water aerobics, anyone?), but the seniors I’ve known don’t fit that mold at all.
My great aunt Mary passed away last year at age 81, and until shortly before her death, I don’t think it ever occurred to her to consider age a reason to slow down or not do something she wanted to do. When she was about 60, I remember her trying to teach me how to “skin the cat” (grab a horizontal bar, lift your legs off the ground and do a backwards aerial somersault, flipping your legs between your head and the bar before landing back on the ground). She had recently undergone cancer treatments and didn’t have the strength she previously had, and I remember her being absolutely baffled that she wasn’t able to lift her feet off the ground. As a vibrant single living independently in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, she walked the 20 blocks to and from church multiple times a week and considered anything in that radius to be her “neighborhood” and therefore too close to bother taking the subway or a cab. Even into her 70s, I often had trouble keeping up with her.