Staying strong as we age
When we finished playing racquetball last night, my buddy and I were chatting about the State Fair back in 1957, when he was 15.
“That's the year I was born,” I responded, much to his irritation.
I think the fact that I'm 56 and playing racquetball with a guy 15 years older than me—and he wins more often than I do—says more about his physical fitness than it does about my lack of racquetball skill. (I always say there's nothing wrong with my game that a little quickness and a good “kill” shot wouldn't solve.) My buddy has been playing racquetball for more than 30 years, while I've only been playing for about five, but still, he's in remarkable shape.
Then I think of my dad. He turned 83 this month, and when I call and ask how he is, he'll say, “Getting weaker every day.” He has a dry sense of humor and is trying to be funny, but that statement holds a measure of truth.
I always admired Dad as a strong guy raised on a farm. He used to lug quarter slabs of beef over his back while delivering meat for Swift. Now, back problems and decades of smoking have caught up with him. He uses a handicapped sign in his pickup and won't walk any farther than he has to. He's fallen a couple of times, and my encouragement that he use a cane and walk for exercise each day to build up his strength and balance gets nowhere.
I wish he had and would join a program like the one Shelly Birkelo wrote about in today's Gazette. A half-dozen men at Grinnell Hall Senior Center in Beloit are taking part in the program designed to build strength and improve balance. Leading it is Paula Schutt, whose own father was in his 80s when he fell, hit his head and died on the operating table.
I've always been active and, unlike Dad, enjoyed sports. If I'm still alive at age 70 or even 80, I hope to be more like my racquetball buddy, able to enjoy an active life, than quietly living out my twilight years like Dad is doing.