Blame it on Ian Millar, part of Canada’s 2008 Beijing Olympics team. This equestrian’s silver medal made us proud – and his silver hair made us stand up and cheer. He was 61.
With the London 2012 Olympic Games on the horizon, we got to thinking about athletes and aging.
It’s clear that more people are staying fit longer (Beijing was Millar’s 10th Olympics), while others are getting into shape later in life. Like Ernestine Shepherd, whose story went viral last week – she started working out at 71 and, today, is the world’s oldest female bodybuilder at 75. As we prepared to publish Pulse, Diana Nyad had just completed a 29-hour “test swim,” a trial for the real deal – swimming from Cuba to Florida. At 62.
Aside from these examples, science is also proving the point. New research reveals that older athletes may be slower, but they are not less efficient. “Economical runners perform better than less-economical runners,” wrote Timothy Quinn, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Hampshire, in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, “And contrary to our expectations, economy did not decline with age.”
Might the average age of Olympians rise?
Each country’s official Summer Games team will be announced in early July. But it’s already shaping up to be the most mature Olympics ever. Here are some 50-plus athletes to watch for. Not to mention a whole new reason to watch the Games.
• Lesley Thompson-Willie, Canadian rowing coxswain, 52
• Andre Metzger, American Greco-Roman wrestler, 52
• Karen O’Connor, American equestrian, 54
• Butch Johnson, American archer, 57
• Ian Millar, Canadian equestrian, 65
• Hiroshi Hoketsu, Japanese equestrian, 70
Finish line: If that wasn’t eye-opening or invigorating enough, we leave you with this clip from Autumn Gold, an award-winning documentary by filmmaker Jan Tenhaven that follows five inspiring, truly memorable track-and-field athletes, aged 82 and up, competing for gold in the World Masters Championships. And if it doesn’t show above, try this link: http://youtu.be/Lc3jokGni5U
The Globe and Mail’s Rob Carrick recently interviewed Julia about this whole “working when you’re older” trend. Watch the video on the Globe’s site: http://tgam.ca/DdzN
We’ve done a number of interviews for client projects recently and were struck by how many senior executives and seasoned professionals used the same line, “Been there, done that.” There’s nothing wrong with experience and knowledge – in fact, it’s the very foundation of ripening. Yet we couldn’t help thinking that if one isn’t careful this know-it-all attitude could fence us in.
Just as we’re not biologically destined to become less fit (it happens mostly because we’re inactive), we’re not designed to become less curious about the world, less fresh in our thinking, less innovative. It simply becomes habit to see things the way we’ve ‘always’ seen them.
Part of the ripening journey is learning to see things with an outsider’s perspective. Dean Simonton, a psychologist at UC-Davis says there’s no need to wither as we age. “If you can keep finding new challenges, then you can think like a young person even when you’re old and gray.” (We forgive him the “even” in his comment – and add that even progressive thinkers need the odd tweak!)
This week, what can you do that helps you view the world – both as audience and participant – in a fresh way? How can you stretch in a new direction?
Julia Moulden and Trisse Loxley have been writing and editing for the media and corporate sectors for a combined 50 years. Today, they’re reconnecting with their generation and helping their clients engage with Boomers, too.