A New Definition For ''Old''

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.

Later that morning we found out that Mo was battling brain cancer and her prognosis was not promising. Nevertheless, she was eager to participate in her 12th year of Senior Olympics. She won a gold medal and our respect and admiration for the way she played.

Later in the day, we helped out at the “softball throw for accuracy” event. Before the competition, we helped one gentleman in his warm-up. He said that the competition was the realization of a goal set after undergoing triple bypass surgery. He had a passion for playing the game of baseball and was not about to let the surgery slow him down. He told us he did not have a bad heart, but simply a “new and improved” one. The determination in his eyes certainly killed any notions that motivation was not possible in older people.

In the final analysis, we think Webster should highlight “old” with words such as “courage, wisdom, athletic and perseverance.”
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Member Comments

At 77year old, I am growing older but I am not old and hope I will never be. It is in your mind. This is inspirational! Report
oI notice the pain is less if you exercise Report
Interesting that in 1995, being 50 was considered being a senior citizen. It's 25 years later and 50 is now considered youthful.

Even though obesity has increased over the years, I do feel that Americans, in general, are taking better care of themselves. In 1995, more people were smoking. which accelerates the aging process. Today, fewer people smoke, more people do something for exercise and they are trying to eat better. All these things continue to living a longer, healthier life.
Thank you Report
I enjoyed reading all the comments from SP on a great article. At 62 I still feel young most of the time. With a focus on healthy eating, exercise, and sleep I believe we have all taken a step in the right direction; to enjoy the years we have left. Report
Unfortunately when you reach a certain older plateau no amount of anything changes the way your body slows down. I have been active since retirement. But since this lockdown, I've noted a slow down. I don't have the energy I used to have. I'm very sad for this, because i was into everything, crafts, projects gardening, walking 3 miles a day, etc. Now it's pretty much gone. Make the most of each day while young, and do all you can to keep moving, trust me. I always wondered why my Mom took 3 days to cross a room in her older age, now I know for myself. She pretty much became sedentary when my Dad took ill, and couldn't do much anymore, she really didn't have a choice. So STAY ACTIVE. I'm hoping when this virus is contained and we can resume our lives, I can return to my active one, if not too late to do so. Report
Thanks Report
Thanks Report
This was an interesting article! Report
Thank you. Take care of your body and you will never be old. Report
I am going on 66 this year in July...Alot of health issues but now retired after 17 years of overnight plus...I am not gonna stop...I have not lived a full life yet..always worked and raised 5 kids basically on my own...
Lookout World ..
Here I Come....
I am 60 and will never let the old women in. I go to the gym daily where there are amazing roll models 60, 70, 80 and 90’s. It is all attitude 😎 Report
Thank you for this healthier take on aging seniors! Report
I am 76 years young and I never think of myself as old! Report


About The Author

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