Rio Withdrawals

OK, I know it’s cheesey and politically incorrect “, but I am suffering from an Olympic-sized withdrawal from watching the Rio extravaganza.  Three weeks ago I promised myself I wouldn’t spend much time watching them; after all, our summer is so very short, why waste it sitting inside watching the elite group perform the impossible.  Besides, I should boycott watching them, after hearing all the controversy about Rio – corruption by the developers, unfair distribution of the Olympic costs and benefits, the deadly potential of the Zika virus, and the controversial ban of the Russian athletes.

I used to love watching the Olympics in the summer.  When I was much younger, it was one my late summer motivators to get up and go for a run, do a workout, go for a bike ride, or just move.  I remember spending many hours parked in front of the TV watching while I lumbered through my step-aerobics, or did a few extra steps on my non-electric treadmill. I was not delusional enough to believe that I was an athlete, but I did believe I could push myself to go just a little faster, further, stronger.

But this Olympics was going to be different.  I am no spring chicken anymore. Although usually I am very happy to see young people succeed, I have to admit that sometimes the jealousy virus attacks me. Sometimes watching young people reach their dreams depresses rather than motivates me.  On my down days, these people remind me of what will never be for me.  That I will never be able to even jog any more thanks to my new enemy Arthritis.  That I will most likely never have an opportunity to travel to these exciting places, and that I will never, ever, ever, ever, be young again.   I don’t dwell on these feelings, but sometimes they spread like a bad virus  oiling around and slowly sucking away the pleasure of a beautiful day. Yet somehow I found myself tuning into the opening ceremonies and watching with rapture as each new country marched into that huge stadium.   Before I knew it, my fingers were flying to google searching to find out exactly where island nations such as Vanauta or Tongo were located. Before I even knew it, I was hooked.  I have to admit sometimes I was envious of all these athletes – especially those who came from those amazing places I now know it’s pointless to even dream of visiting. The reality of being 55+ is that I can’t do it all; I can’t afford to see it all and do it all.  Sigh.  But I digress.

The Olympic virus had stung me and I was off to a two-week binge watch. The virus had won. Some evenings I wheedled my way downstairs to sit with my son and nudge him into watching some of the volleyball or swimming.  We chatted about the teams, and guessed the medal counts.  For the first time, because I so often ache from aging injuries, I looked at the athletes and started to realized how much they must really hurt after an event or during training.  And I worried a little about how quickly all that extreme participation will impact them when they are 55+.  Will they be suffering the slings and arrows of degeneration? Or will those superior efforts keep their bodies strong enough to fight against the ravages of age?

Other days I spent time by myself puttering around the house while the Olympics gushed out of each TV in the house. I channeled surfed to catch as many different versions as I could. I downloaded the apps and followed them faithfully, even though I was extremely annoyed by the awkward, non-user friendly CBC app that controlled most of the news. I followed the games on Facebook, Twitter, and Instragram. I liked the Canadian athletes, the medal winners, the media, and more.  I even sometimes wrote posts and followed some of the specific athletes. I entered the goofy contests in the very rare chance I could win some Olympic swag ( Of course I didn’t win a thing!).  I even won my own silver medal in a dragonboat competition (Hooray).  I did it all.  And in my heart, I felt a part of Team Canada, even though my head tells me I am being silly. These athletes are strangers whom I will never meet, nor ever even come close to their world, nor they to mine.  Why should I feel like I know them, or even care?  But I do.

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DASA Dragoons win silver at Calgary Dragonboat Festival – and cheer on Team Canada! Paddles Up Canada:)

 

Then suddenly it was Sunday and the virus was vanquished.  No more medal counts, no more motivational stories, no more heart-breaking 4th place finishes, or spectacular medal wins. Today feels so ordinary and bland without the Olympics.  It also seems like the death knoll for summer. The leaves have suddenly started to turn colour, the air quickly turns chilly at 8:30 at night, the air even feels different.  The summer binge, topped off by the Olympics is over.  My arthritis is back – and reminding me with a fury that I too am moving into autumn. All that is left is to mourn the loss, and wait for the sedate opportunities of fall to take over.

 

 

Pensioner, Senior, Retired… Redefining labels for 55+ers

“Pensioner gets rescued from sea after attempting to swim to cruise ship to find husband” – Headline for March 28.

Curiously, what struck me about this headline was not how odd it was that a 60+ woman actually tried jumped in the Atlantic to swim back to her departing cruise ship, but the use of the word “Pensioner”.  What is a pensioner?  How old are you when you are a pensioner?  Why would the Western Daily Press choose this word? What reaction where they trying to get?  I think they were trying to suggest that this woman was old – she was a pensioner – someone clearly retired and “old”.

Yet  look beyond that label.  What exactly is a pensioner? According to Mirriam-Webster, a pensioner is ” a person who receives or lives on a pension; especially : a person who receives a government pension”.  Simple, right. But the connotation with the word is much more complex.  When I was under 55, I tended to think of pensioners as older people living on fixed incomes, possibly quite frail and old. They sometimes needed tax breaks to cover the increased medical costs and ever-rising living expenses.  They quite giving Christmas and birthday presents to everyone because they were now living on a pension. The label stuck when I looked at the grey haired, arthritic people in frequenting churches, old folks homes, and funerals. Sometimes they lived alone because their spouse had died, and their children have grown and left the nest.  They belonged to my parents’ and grandparents’ generation – not mine.

But wait – I am now a pensioner. Is that how younger people see me? I am living on a fixed income – one that certainly does not meet my monthly living needs. Am I also now frail and useless?  Most of the time I don’t feel that way. Sure, I have minor aches and pains.  I sometimes stumble slightly while my limbs un-cement themselves after sitting for a long time. But I don’t think I stumble my way around with a cane.   My child has grown up and left the coop. Most of my friends are now grandparents.  So I suppose I am part of the pensioner generation.

I’m sure the news service wanted to suggest the woman was frail and feeble-minded. But how frail was she if she was able to survive 4 hours swimming in the Atlantic Ocean? And how “poor” was she if she could afford a cruise?  Is she your typical old-generation pensioner?  I think not!

I suggest we need a new connotation for pensioner.  Those of us in the new pensioner group do not fit the definitions we gave to our parents.  I have met so many strong, vibrant, active and healthy 55+ers that I would never even think of the word “pensioner”.  So what are we?  I don’t have the right word yet.  But I do know that we need to ensure that the age-challenged (young ones) never again look at us as weak, feeble, or useless simply because we are no longer working full time – and have chosen to subsist primarily on  the pensions we worked so hard to earn.

Pensioners of the world unite!  We have nothing to lose but our labels…

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Curling Rocks!

Sometimes in life we made really, really, really bad decisions, but once in awhile, we get lucky and make a great one.  That’s what happened to me this winter.

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Blaine bugged me all year to join him in Senior’s Curling in Lethbridge.  I just didn’t want to the big commitment.  Driving  all the way to the city  two days a week  – that means a 45 minute drive – leaving mid-morning so we get there in time to practice, staying for 3 hours to curl and chitchat with strangers, and then driving back home arriving around 4:30 or 5:00; well, it just seemed to much of a bother.  After doing that same grind (even longer) every day for almost 26 years of work, I just didn’t want to have to say yes.  But finally, in March I agreed.

Flash forward 6 weeks.  I know we must made our best decision in years.  We are together at a social event twice a week – it’s like “date afternoon”.  We are put onto different teams so we have to meet different people during reach game. I  I have been forced out of my winter hibernation comfort zone at a time when I needed it the most.

I’m not that great of a curler, but I have picked up more tips in the last 6 weeks that I have in 6 years.   I’m getting fit again.  Take note Jenny Craig, Weigh Watchers, Herbal Magic and all you other diet businesses – I have found a better way!  Today I fit into curling pants I haven’t even dare to try for over 2 years.  Who knew that curling twice a week could put me on the path to picking up my skinny jeans again (well, not for another few weeks yet, but I still can dream). Plus, because of curling, I found a friend that I can travel with. Last week we took a grand curling adventure to Swift Current Sk. to watch the first 3 draws of the World Women’s Championship. Now, I have a whole rink full of new friends to mull over the games, each of us offering our own so-called “expert” take on the games.  What a blast!

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Team Canada enters the arena at the Opening Ceremonies – World Women’s Championship 2016

The best part – watching happy seniors stay physically and mentally well.   Sometimes I can look across the ice and see the kid in us all, no matter our age. It’s fun to laugh over a mistake, worry over a shot, and  high-five over a success with my new team mates.

I wish that more younger people could see the joy in our eyes – and see that life after 55 doesn’t mean we are out to pasture. Instead, it means we are still full of vitality! Unlike those of you younger beings, we now have the time to revisit our inner child and be a kid again, despite our creaky knees, saggy boobs, and thinning hair.

Rock on my senior friends – and Hurry Hard!

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Opening Ceremonies for the Word Women’s Championship – Swift Current, 2016