Don’t Stop Living Because You’re Growing Older

By Dan Levitt. Tom Watson, who turned 65 this month, made the cut at the 2014 British Open and finished at 1-over par, 18 strokes behind the Open champion Rory McIlroy, 40 years younger than the five-time British champion.

On the Sunday of the tournament, Watson shot 68, three strokes better than the winner’s final-round score. He almost won the tournament in 2009 at age 59.

All this at an age in most people’s lives when they are planning for retirement.

A professional golfer who has been playing on the PGA Champions Tour for the past decade and half, with others who are in the 50-year-plus age category, made the news not because of how he played the Open, but because he defies the perceptions society has of what an older person should do.

Watson’s mastery of the game of golf is measured by his ability still to do things traditionally reserved for elite athletes in the physically prime years of their lives.

Watson is not the only senior making headlines for not acting his age.

Olga Kotelko, a retired teacher, started track and field at age 77. Until her recent death at age 95, she was competing at meets from Kamloops to Budapest on a monthly basis. The Vancouver resident held 26 world records, earning hundreds of medals. This would be a significant achievement for any star athlete, but Olga wasn’t inclined to look in the rear view at her accomplishments. She would rather set fresh goals for the road ahead, with 100-metre dash, long jump and javelin among the many events in her repertoire.

Olga is now the subject of a best-selling book, What Makes Olga Run, unlocking the mysteries of aging, examining the sum of our genes opportunities, and choices, and the factors that forge the course of any life, especially during the golden years.

Harriette Thompson, 91, completed her 15th marathon in San Diego in June, finishing the 42.2-km race in seven hours and seven minutes, breaking the record for the fastest marathon run in the 90-94 age group. Even more remarkable is that Harriette is a cancer survivor and ran for a purpose, raising more than $90,000 for blood cancers, thereby continuing to make an impact on the world around her.

To celebrate his 90th birthday, when a birthday gift might be a new sweater, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush had other ideas. Despite his wife, sons and closest advisers telling him it was too risky as he was not healthy enough, he celebrated his birthday the same way he did for his 80th and 85th birthdays: skydiving. It was his eighth parachute jump, starting with one he made after the Japanese shot down his fighter plane over the Pacific during the Second World War, on Sept. 2, 1944.

An online campaign in early 2010 was created on Facebook to have 88-year-old Betty White play host to an episode of Saturday Night Live. The online movement was ignited by the former Golden Girl’s appearance in a Snickers commercial broadcast during Super Bowl XLIV. This episode was nominated for seven Emmy Awards, including one awarded White, for guest actress in a comedy. TV ratings skyrocketed for this episode of SNL, with nearly 15 million viewers.

Originally published 09/12/2014 on the Vancouver Sun.

About Dan Levitt

Dan Levitt, MSc., CHE, is the Executive Director of Tabor Village.

About Tabor Village

Located in Abbotsford, B.C., Tabor Village is a not-for-profit Christian society specializing in care for older adults.  Situated on a Campus of Care, Tabor Village provides care from the heart, including Independent Living, Assisted Living and Complex Care.

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