Staying Active While Living 50+

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The Allegheny Outdoor Club at Hector Falls. (Photo by Allegheny Outdoor Club)

Contributing Writer
Jean L. Gomory

What keeps a person young? I think we all know some answers to this. A healthy diet, exercise, social interaction, a glass of red wine with dinner, and volunteering, just to name a few.

For example, SilverSneakers is a popular program at the YMCA in Warren, PA. Jena Swanson has been teaching the class for three years. They usually have more than 30 people sign up for each five-week session. Lately about 20 members have been attending each session. This chair-based class includes a 45-minute strength portion followed by 15 minutes of balance exercises.

“Learn to Skate” at the Northwest Arena. (Photo by Northwest Arena)

In addition to simply maintaining good health in later years, SilverSneakers is a great way to recover from things like accidents and surgery, such as a hip or knee replacement. However, you may want to consult your doctor or physical therapist before starting a new exercise program. One person signed up after physical therapy from a car accident and she loves the class. Another woman with Parkinson’s Disease participates and does what she can. Other participants with general aches and pains like the movement the class provides. Working on their balance is a reason cited by many people as to why they take the class. As you may suspect, there is an added social benefit to attending a group class.

Bill and Mary Massa are members of the Allegheny Outdoor Club (AOC). They became involved in the club at the same time in October of 1998. As a matter of fact, their first date was a hike with the Allegheny Outdoor Club. Part of its 53-year history includes laying out art of the North Country Trail in Warren County, PA in the early 1970’s. This club was formed for non-motorized activities including canoeing, kayaking, and cross-country skiing. Bicycling came along a little later, but originally it was a hiking club.

Bill likes the peace and solitude of being in the forest and the good health that comes from hiking. He also gets a kick out of helping people find the best trails and giving them directions for the best hikes.

Megan Arnone is the Director of Marketing, Communications, and Sales at the Northwest Arena in Jamestown, NY. She encourages everyone to check out the arena’s website, www.northwestarena.com, for events, scheduling updates and exceptions. Although the arena doesn’t have any programs specifically geared towards seniors, they do have activities that age group tends to gravitate towards. For example, Backyard Curling is open to the 18 – 80+ crowd and requires no special skill set or equipment. You can join a Fall, Winter or Spring League and compete in tournaments, although you don’t have to commit to a league to play. Curling stones can be expensive and difficult to find, but a supporter of the arena, from the local manufacturing industry, created curling stones made from dog bowels, concrete, and PVC pipe for a handle. It’s quite a sight.

The walking track at the Northwest Arena. (Photo by Northwest Arena)

If you don’t skate and would like to learn “Learn to Skate” is currently being offered. This program, although geared towards kids, accepts adults. If ice skating just isn’t your thing, an indoor walking tract is available too, so there’s something for everyone at the Northwest Arena.

But you don’t have to join a gym or stick to organized activities. Unstructured opportunities such as walking, biking, or canoeing with friends or family are also great options.

John and Mary Beth Zdarko walk every day, even in bad weather. However, if conditions are icy or if the weather is a bit on the severe side, they do walking videos at home. They started walking when Covid hit. They found it was a great way to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve their moods. They participated in a recent 5K Run/Walk in Presque Isle, Erie, to raise awareness for Huntington’s Disease. They came in first place in the walking category!

Now, besides physical activity, volunteering is a great way to lift your spirits in later years; especially after retirement. Gary and Penny Lester are two great examples of how to stay active and involved in your community once you’ve come to this stage of life. According to Penny, “One of the joys of volunteering is that you get to interact with people who may not be part of your regular ‘circle of friends’, and their passion and energy are infectious. Learning is so important through all stages of life, and there is always an opportunity to learn when you are working with others.”

Curling at the Northwest Arena. (Photo by Northwest Arena)

As for Gary, he’s sad when he sees people retire and do nothing because work was their primary source of activity. He thinks a meaningful life requires participation in activities with others forever. Additionally, he says, “Trying things can be fun even if they don’t become a passion. Creating one’s own schedule for serious and fun activities is liberating. But what has been most meaningful in my transition to fogey-hood is sharing interests and passions with others. Particularly wonderful is doing that with younger folks. Their energy and enthusiasm can be contagious and we fogeys can use a boost in that area.”

You may be thinking, “I’m too old to start a new activity.” Well, I’ve got good news. It’s not too late unless you’re dead. And since you’re sitting there reading this article, you’re obviously not dead. So, get moving and start something new. It’s not too late.