How Fit Are You? Senior Athletic Glory Could Be Yours.

As a teenager I long ago gave up all hopes of athletic fame. At best, in a few sports I qualified as average. But now I have glorious news for all seniors—men and women–with comparable modest skills but whose competitive juices remain at the ready for an unexpected opportunity of latter day athletic fulfillment.

I immediately present to you the occasion and my rationale for this somewhat over-the-top announcement. The National Senior Summer Games is coming to Minneapolis in 2015, the largest senior multi-games competition in the world. (It’s really a senior Olympics except they can’t use the word Olympics.) It takes place every other year, and in San Francisco in 2009 there were 10,296 men and women participating.

The range of ages spans over a half century with competition separated into five year segments: 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, and continuing up to 100-104. And there are many varied events from which to select. But why should a mediocre athlete as a youth take up this challenge as a senior and not be concerned about the potential stigma of dismal failure? The answer is easy and it’s all in the numbers of competitors.

Here is what I mean. When I first heard about the Games, I recklessly said to the wife, “I’m thinking of competing in the shot put.” “Are you mad?” she forcefully responded. “You’ve never tried to do the shot put in your life. You will ruin your shoulder forever. Forget it!” “But I have several years to train,” I protested. “I’ve looked at the ages of the competitors. The numbers are heavy through the early 60s, but after that it thins out. At my age how many men will be competing in the shot put? I have the potential to be a national champion!”

Anyway the wife was adamant. I decided she was right and it was a dumb idea. I doubt that I could lift the shot put let alone throw it. So, did I give up my dreams of athletic glory? Never! I had noted one sports category that is not too strenuous and where I actually was a teen age winner. Frankly until I went over all the categories I didn’t even realize it qualified as a sport.

So from now on every summer through 2015—and hopefully after –you will find me practicing at the Loring Park horseshoe pits in Minneapolis. That’s right—I’m staking my claim to athletic glory in the historic game of horseshoes. At summer camp I was a champion. (The secret is supple wrists.) Finally, I must mention that my endeavor is blest with a highly favorable omen: The summer camp was called Camp Horseshoe. Surely I am destined to win!

Horseshoe champ "wanna-be"

POSTSCRIPT: Should the above description of the National Senior Summer Games inspire potential involvement, the following information covers some key items.

• The Games will be taking place in Houston in 2011, and in Cleveland in 2013. The Minnesota Games will take place in Minneapolis in 2015, no specific month as yet set.
• Games are held only every other year.
• Competitors must first be winners at state-by-state tryouts held in the off-Games years. (In Minnesota the tryouts will be held in Mankato in 2012 and in Owatonna in 2014.)For further information in Minnesota, contact: www.MNSeniorGames.com, or 320-762-2868, attn: Fritz Bukowsky.
• It’s too late to try out for this year’s Games in Houston in June; but you can try out in 2012 for the 2013 Games in Cleveland.
• For information on the state tryouts and schedules for the national Senior Games, contact: www.nsga.com, or 225-766-6800.
• Finally, here are the Medal categories and there are many choices within each category: Archery; Badminton; Basketball; Bowling; Cycling; Road Races; Golf; Horseshoes; Race Walk; Racquetball; Shuffleboard; Softball; Swimming; Table Tennis; Tennis; Track and Field; Triathlon; Volleyball.

So now you have the info; go for it!

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I No Longer Have To Work — How About You?

Snapshot: You are in your mid- 60’s, in reasonably good health and like the majority of your age peers don’t go to work on a daily basis. According to insurance actuarial tables, on average you have approximately one third of your adult life still remaining. This is most encouraging news because in all likelihood you can anticipate living another twenty to twenty five years.

However, now is the time to consider this question: how do you plan to maximize these potentially fulfilling years and decades? When you worked, you had to fit in the rest of your life; work was the dominant feature. Suddenly, you have time to decide on the many choices at your disposal.

That was my dilemma some years back. For too many years I operated a downtown Minneapolis public relations firm. About midway through this deadline-oriented slog, my wife joined me. She decidedly enhanced our business affairs, so much so that with a much improved bottom line we were able to sell our agency to a national public relations firm. Huzzah!

In Morocco, with camel and wife!

But what was our next rite of passage? My wife loves to travel and is an excellent writer, so she morphed into a successful travel writing career. For me, after forty plus years of the nine-to-five schedule, I knew my departure from the agency business absolutely required some new routine, less taxing to be sure, but an ongoing activity.

Fortunately my PR work had put me into regular contact with local TV stations. And I had noted that none of the stations had any regular shows of senior interest. So I put together a weekly, half hour interview TV show called “Strictly Seniors”, which aired on Channel 6, Metro Cable Network, in Minneapolis. For ten years I interviewed hundreds of guests who had some special knowledge that could be of interest to seniors. Finally, in 2010, at age 85, deciding to indulge myself in a bit of sloth, I said farewell to Channel 6, and I am now a regular guest on the KARE 11’s morning show, called “KARE 11 Today”, with hosts Diana Pierce and Pat Evans. Kare 11 is the NBC station in the Twin Cities.

What did I learn from these experts that I might pass along? Certainly, I absorbed plenty of factual material while discussing many diverse subjects. But this article is not a senior review course. Instead, here are a few general suggestions some of my interviewees covered. They are mostly common sense but none-the-less are often neglected:

  1. Adjust to your new priorities: Most of us spend much of our working lives with workplace pressures and deadlines. These have now disappeared, so it’s important to establish some current guidelines and activities. I remember one interviewee, who gives courses on retirement training, said that adjusting to retirement has been more of a problem for men, but today women of a two job family are unfortunately catching up. In either case, the challenge is to decide what you really would like to accomplish for your future years.
  2. Regular Exercise: I agree this is hardly an original suggestion. But the fact is only 20% of seniors carry out a consistent exercise program. The media is saturated with stories of health benefits. Not only will you be healthier but there is plenty of evidence you will live substantially longer.
  3. Volunteering; Volunteerism attracts the largest number of seniors. There are so many organizations seeking volunteers that it boggles the mind. Whatever your choice you will find satisfaction in your volunteer accomplishments.
  4. Travel: For many years we drove around Europe. Now we are quite content to do it an easier way— on cruise ships. And these days what bargains! The cruising industry is overbuilt, so it is a buyers’ market. If you are alone that’s no problem because group tours provide plenty of companions.
  5. Staying in touch with family and friends: Our kids all live away, so a travel priority is to visit their homes and enjoy our grand-kids. I also like to have lunch with friends. It is a good way not to feel your age, since they are probably your own age.
  6. Here is one “Do Not” suggestion: Avoid too much television. I have a batch of statistics which prove that senior TV watching is by far the most popular daily activity, (or inactivity). Seniors average four to five hours daily watching TV, compared to averaging one hour per day reading. Yes, I am a TV host type; I am only suggesting you be selective.
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