Every time I see a silver-haired woman power walking down the street, I give an internal “whoop,” followed by a prayer: “Please let that be me when I’m her age.”
As someone who types for a living, I sometimes struggle to stay active throughout the day. To combat sedentarism, I employ a host of sloth-fighters. I have a standing desk. I set alarms reminding me to take a break from the computer. I wear a FitBit. I know firsthand how hard it is to start moving again after a period of inertia, after all.
The majority of residents in my neighborhood are 70 or older. Many of them wake before me and have already completed their daily exercise before I’ve finished my first cup of coffee. They walk. They jog. They still mow their own yards. (And those yards look better than mine. Sigh.)
However, some don’t get around very well. Their mobility problems limit their excursions beyond the home, which in turn hampers their social lives — which in turn threatens their longevity. Ample research shows that physical activity deters not only bodily decline, but also mental decline.
I realize it’s not so simple as “get moving and stay moving.” In otherwise seemingly healthy adults, strokes happen. Neuromuscular dysfunction happens. Cancer invades and violates our tissues. One bad fall is sometimes all it takes to undermine a woman’s confidence to the extent that she’s afraid to walk again. Her muscles atrophy, and before you know it, she can’t stand on her own. It breaks my heart to see women’s independence curtailed, their worlds shrunken so dramatically. Springing back from that kind of physical and emotional collapse is possible, but it’s incredibly difficult.
Nature can be so damned cruel, but studies show that even those unfortunate enough to experience disease tend to have a better prognosis if they were in good shape before their diagnosis. And some studies show that exercise in the presence of disease can improve survival rates.
Lately I’ve seen a number of stories about women who continue to kick butt well into their golden years: women like long-distance athlete Gunhild Swanson, for example. Or Norma, the widowed cancer survivor who at 91 years old still makes exercise a priority while traveling the world (and whose health reportedly has improved since she embarked on her RV adventure). Stories like these inspire me to get active and stay active, and I’m always looking for more of them to share with Gutsy Broads’ readers. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, several others have come to my attention in just the last month or so:
This woman who kills it on the tennis court at age 102 — and still has enough energy and humor to poke fun at herself:
This 100-year-old runner:
This performer, who at age 70 has the strength of a woman several decades her junior:
All at least 70, all determined to stay on their own two feet. I want to be like them. When I’m 80, I want to be planning my next hiking trip. I want to have a farmer’s tan and a closetful of well-worn Columbia Global Adventure™ pants. And I want you to be like them. The world needs as many gutsy broads of all ages roaming the planet.
I hope anyone who comes across this post will find inspiration in these stories. If you have one of your own to share, please do.