Unless you’ve never ever read anything about maintaining continued good health as you age, you are well aware that remaining physically fit is an important part of the formula. Obviously, the definition of physical fitness varies from person to person, but setting reasonable fitness goals and sticking to them can make an enormous difference in your physical and mental well-being.
Likewise, it has been documented that continuing to stay active mentally contributes significantly to keeping dementia at bay. At the top of the list is continuing to learn new things, which apparently keeps our brain developing new neural networks. Consider taking up a new language or a new game of strategy. Play bridge, do sudokas or crosswords, whatever turns your crank.
The old adage “use it or lose it” turns out to be true for both our muscles and our brains.
Having a fitness program doesn’t have to mean setting world records. Not that we shouldn’t stand in awe of people like 85-year old Ed Whitlock, who last week ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in under four hours, in 3 hours, 56 minutes, and 33 seconds, smashing the previous record by 40 minutes! [To put this in perspective for those of you who aren’t fully conversant in marathon times, I ran my first one at age 65 in 2 hours longer than Mr. Whitlock and I was delighted with my result. To put it in even more perspective, a friend of mine qualified for the Boston Marathon at age 65; that qualifying time is currently 4 hours 40 minutes. Ed Whitlock is special!] This Toronto Marathon is the same event that 5 years ago saw British senior Fauja Singh become the world’s first 100-year old to complete a marathon, and he’s still running at 105, although he has given up marathons. To give one more example of impressive fitness accomplishments of seniors, another friend of ours just celebrated his 79th birthday by completing a 79 km bike ride with some family members. They even went a few extra kms by mistake!
As I said, having a fitness program doesn’t have to mean earthshattering results like those above, thank goodness. Finding what you like to do and then getting out and doing it is what it’s all about. Finding what you like to do for both physical and mental activity is important. There is no doubt that it is difficult if not impossible to keep at something you don’t enjoy, but the good news is that there really is something for everyone. And that’s where my mention of opportunity comes in.
When I posted my article on Advantages of getting old(er), I had a comment back from the City of Saint John (New Brunswick, Canada) alerting me to the fact that Saint John will be hosting the Canada 55+ Games in 2018. This is a multi-activity event held bi-annually for Canadians aged 55 and over. The host city determines which activities will be included, drawing from a list established by a national body. Each province and territory is responsible for selecting their teams. The event spans 4 days of competitions and social events, bringing something like 2000 participants, officials and spectators together from across the country. I haven’t been able to find a web site for similar games in other countries, but surely it is something to consider if it is not already happening near you.
For me, the most interesting part of reading about this event was perusing the list of possible sports and related activities. The list includes a vast array of both physical and mental activities. So, which of these activities are your favourites? And which have you never heard of?!
- Bowling – Five-pin
- Contract Bridge
- Duplicate Bridge
- Floor Shuffleboard
- Ice Curling
- Ice Hockey – Men’s & Women’s
- Track & Field
- Carpet Bowling
- Dragon Boat
- Floor Curling
- Lawn Bowling
- Stick Curling
- Table Tennis
- Washer Toss
- 5K & 10K run
What wide-ranging – and in some cases “intriguing” – options. And you’ll have to agree, there’s something for everyone. If you take just the subset of events you recognize (!), there’s likely to be something you’d like to try or get back into. You don’t need to take up a new activity just to try to represent your province or territory in the Canada 55+ Games, although that is something to think about. Take it up as your next personal contribution to your own physical and mental well-being. Mostly, take it up to have fun! And, for more inspiration, think about heading to Saint John, NB to take in the Canada 55+ Games in 2018.
P.S. If you’re really curious about these games and their rules, here is the entire 124-page Canadian Senior Games Association Rule Book.
Photo credits: for Ed Whitlock photo, Canadian Running Magazine; all others, BC Seniors Games Society