Motivation Articles

A New Definition For ''Old''

Life Tales From a Former Olympian

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According to Webster's Dictionary, the word “old” is defined as “having been in use for a long time,” “worn, dilapidated, ancient, or decayed by time.” After an experience as a volunteer at the 1995 St. Louis Senior Olympic games, I may have to give Webster a call.

On May 28-31, 1995, the Jewish Community Center on Aging in St. Louis held their 16th Annual Senior Olympics. Men and women 55 and older were eligible to compete. There were 1,421 participants from 25 states. More than 60 athletic events were held during the weekend. The oldest participant was 93! Each day proud winners would walk around wearing their bronze, silver, or gold medals.

As seniors in a Master of physical therapy program, we felt volunteering at these games would give us greater insight into our future geriatric patients. We had just completed a course on development throughout the life span. Our attitudes towards older people, we were ashamed to admit, still leaned towards Webster's definition. Our experience at the Senior Olympics permanently changed this ageist attitude.

During the first event of the morning, we served as scorekeepers for the badminton tournament. Badminton is a sport that requires finesse, agility and court-vision. Our attention was immediately drawn to the most energetic player on the court. “Mo,” as her friends called her, was competing in the badminton doubles championship. Her movements resembled those of a skilled athlete. She was particularly aware of the rules of the game and played with true sportsmanship.
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About The Author

Julie Isphording Julie Isphording
Julie, a former Olympic marathon runner, is an author, radio host and fitness expert.

Member Comments

  • I believe old is a state of mind. I do not feel old. I do not act old. I can keep up with the younger people at weight lifting class. I even out lift some of them. I went to the gym the other day and I did 100 lb. leg presses on the machine. I was so proud of myself for that. I refuse to let age define me as it's just a number of how many birthdays I have had. I have had 58 to be exact. I have no intentions of slowing down any time soon. - 5/26/2014 5:51:14 PM
  • When Social Security was initially unfolded, the age at which one could draw this benefit was set because very few people lived beyond 65. Now the average lifespan is over 70 and extending every year.

    If you have old family photos, go back and look how your grandparents looked in their 40's, 50,s 60,s and beyond. Today look at the same age groups - Big Diference in appearance!

    Before I retired, young associates were shocked that I was old enough to have a teenage grandaughter. When I retired, I had a young 20's associate tell me I "looked about the age of her parents (49 & 45)" - I gave her a giant hug, a kiss on the check and gave her a silver dollar (new composition, not "real" silver).

    It certainly is not because I had never had any serous health problem. I'm a Type 1 Diabetic, I had all of the childhood diseases available in the late forties and fifties, plus polio;, bronchial pnumonia twice as an adult, spinal meningitus, three heart attacks because of pancreas damage from defoliants used in Vietnam. Two of those attacks required open heart bypass surgery (#one = 4 bypass grafts, #two = 5 bypass grafts). My third only required a stent. I now also have an implanted defibrillator in my chest because of atrial fibrilation in my 50's (luckily, I was in my cardiologists office for my semi-annual checkup check-up and treadmill test (I was at 75% of my Max heart rate when this happened).

    What made the difference in my case, I think, was that after every serious health setback I made the best effort I could to complete whatever rehab was needed to get back into the best possible condition.

    In the past 5 years, I have been "carded" twice to check if I qualified for the "Over 55" discount. Both times absolutely "made my day" - especially the looks on the youngsters who "carded me"!

    My advice is to walk, run, swim, or whatever it takes to keep your heart and lungs healthy. Do different challenging strength exercises to keep your muscles, bones, tendons and joints strong and healthy Don't smoke, don't use alcohol to excess (I w... - 2/22/2014 4:27:09 PM
  • I always say I am not old. That's just a number. When my grandkids ask me how old I am I say 16. They say how can you be younger than your kids. LOL - 12/19/2013 5:57:37 PM
  • I just turned 51 and do not feel "senior". But I am becoming aware of the amount of ageism and condescending attitudes towards seniors that is out there. for example, the badminton player didn't "resemble" an athlete, she IS an athlete. - 12/10/2013 6:55:11 AM
  • I want to wholeheartedly agree with SKIDEE's comment. Time and chance do play a part in our health, and there are times we have to make the best of a difficult situation. Besides the greater likelihood of healthier golden years, living a disciplined and healthy lifestyle brings the reward of feeling better right now. - 9/14/2013 9:54:38 PM
  • I totally agree.

    I still remember when I was in high school and a friend of my Aunt's, a lady in her 50s or 60s, invited me and my cousin to go jogging in the morning. I had my "sure, whatever, I can keep up with someone that much older than me!"

    Yeah right! She blew us out of the water. We jogged for about 2 minutes and then walked, gasping for air, and watched her quickly and gracefully jogging her way far into the distance. - 8/23/2013 10:00:34 AM
  • I totally agree - I'm the "new" 61 and I don't plan on being "old" for a very long time! - 7/8/2013 11:12:40 AM
  • Jack LaLanne, the Godfather of Fitness lived to be 96 and he worked out two hours the day before he passed from URI. I love that he really "lived" each day and he didn't "retire." I'm 63 and never plan to be "old." - 10/6/2012 7:44:59 AM
  • "Just because there is now on the roof doesn't mean there,s not a fire in the furnace.

    "But what does it mean if there's frost around the furnace door?" Hmmm. - 9/28/2012 1:10:03 PM
  • My clock is really tickin' fast on me, but I try not to think about it too much. My mind is still 30 although my body often begs to differ. I receive lots of encouragement when I read about people older than I who are active, healthy and fit. That would mean people in their 70s and up! - 9/28/2012 8:50:09 AM
  • RUNGRL2013
    I absolutely love this article. As a college student I worked part time in a retirement home, and I've never loved a job more. Talk about wisdom, epic tales, great humor and life lessons. 20 years later, I still remember some of the residents because I learned so much from them. I find it a pity that seniors are not celebrated more and used more in society to coach us younger people--all that experience and wisdom gathered over decades should be celebrated! - 9/28/2012 7:36:47 AM
  • SANDIBETTS1
    I agree with Chris3874. - 5/10/2012 8:47:42 AM
  • Yeah 30 is the new 20, 60 is the new 40, etc. Age is all in your mind. People are living longer, healthier lives and it's time that the word old no longer be applied to people or things. A lot of things get better with age - wine, cheese, people. I wouldn't redo my teens or 20's again if someone paid me lots of money to do it. I love where I am now and where I am going. When I was down about getting older, a friends mother looked at me and said "you're still here!" I hold onto that every day. I'm still here... - 5/6/2012 12:06:04 AM
  • I love this artical! It is so true! My Mother is an amazing example of the "new" old. If you ask her how old I am or how old she is, she says, "I am only today". (Yoda said this). She is still VERY active, she wrote a book that is being sold on Amozan & she travels promoting her book. She has always been VERY creative, but lately she is excelling with energy, high hopes & manifesting her life long goals & dreams.

    I believe she is doing SO great because of her possitive atitude. She has great health & is an insperation to me & all she meets. A truly amazing woman!

    Thanks to Spark People for your wonderful "work". You are helping us all!

    *~LIGHT
    - 4/26/2012 4:34:58 PM
  • I've certainly wanting to explore the definition of "old" now that I've hit 5-0. I want to set goals for the next 30 years for health and livability.

    It would be great to interact with the "older" set to learn the things that have kept them challenged and growing through the years. -- I know an item that kept my great-aunt going until age 95 was her "green thumb" and growing things no matter where she lived! - 3/29/2012 9:52:17 PM

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