The slight elderly woman was bent over a magazine propped up on the stand attached to the stair-stepper machine. Slowly, slowly, she depressed on the pedal, stopped, read a line or two from an article, then took another step with the opposite foot.
She was in the middle of this routine when I arrived at the storefront fitness place I joined in January to rehab my left knee, which underwent surgery in December to repair a torn cartilage I suffered playing ice hockey into my mid-60’s.
I mounted the elliptical and began my program. She was three machines to my right. I cranked up the Tom Petty concert playing in my ear buds and entered the trance one enters when doing mindless, repetitive exercise. But the spell was broken when I found myself looking over to see if the stair-stepping senior was OK. Oh, she was. Where at first glance the poor woman looked like she was in pain, a closer examination revealed a small smile. I’m not sure what made her happier. The workout or the article on Reese Witherspoon’s cupcake preferences. I know what I’d choose.
My time on the elliptical complete, I moved on to the leg press machine where a grey-haired gentleman had just finished his routine. He paused to watch me start and, I’m guessing, to see if I added any weight beyond the 10 pounds he had locked in. Well, yes, I did add another 40 pounds, and he left with a wistful look as if to say to himself, “I’ll get there too.”
From there it was on to another machine I can’t name, but it’s supposed to help you strengthen your chest and upper arm muscles. A serious-looking fellow dressed in a faded golf shirt, work pants and brown walking shoes got on an adjacent piece of apparatus, took a bit of a breath, and slowly worked on completing some leg curls.
To be surrounded by seniors, like me, just trying to fight off Father Time, attenuate whatever aches and pains might wrack our aging bodies, perhaps boost the flow of serotonin to our brains, is most inspiring and comforting.
None of us wear designer workout togs, worry about our hair or makeup or pose for the benefit of, really, no one. Sure, there are always a few of “those” at the gym, but this is a cut-rate joint in a strip mall, making it affordable for us retirees and absent the attitude at flashier and more expensive fitness centers.
I complete my workout and as I start to walk towards the door I see my stair-stepping friend still at it. Slowly, slowly, slowly on her virtual climb, head still bent over that magazine. Still smiling. Me too.
One of the cool benefits of my particular health plan in retirement is something called “Silver Sneakers.” One of the things I hate about that cool benefit is the name “Silver Sneakers.” Silver Sneakers gives you free entree’ into a number of health club chains around the country with the intent of enticing you to exercise more and lowering health care costs. What really gives me grey hair is the association of the color silver with those of us who have taken a certain number of trips around the sun.
First of all, I have never worn sneakers that are silver nor do I intend to. I may have a couple of silver-y grey hairs, but not enough to notice…especially after I pull them out.
Second, it may be time to call in a metallurgist to suss out exactly which precious metal is in play. How can people in their so-called “golden” years simultaneously come under the classification of “silver.” Perhaps Charles Darwin missed the evolutionary process whereby at at 65 or so you become an alloy.
Third, “silver” denotes second place. Who won gold?
Further, when you think of how many retirees pursue carcinomas under the Florida sun it’s possible to carry a Silver Sneakers card during one’s golden years while being bronzed.
Personally, I would prefer to be identified with a much stronger metal such as steel or titanium, not a malleable milquetoast such as tin or aluminum. How cool would it be to see an AARP ad hawking benefits of membership during your “Kickass Steel Years,” Those are the years when you say exactly how you feel, tell poolside mah jong yentas to put a cork in it and berate Izzy the deli guy about how fatty the pastrami was, in front of all his customers…all without a hint of regret or self-consciousness. Yeah…time for us codgers to kick a little brass.
I guess what I’m saying is we may be getting older but we’re still in the game playing hard. We’re less silver or gold than Iron men and women..who haven’t nearly lost our mettle.
It’s been a week since I swiped my badge for the last time and walked out of Corporate America into the nebulous world called “retirement.” One savvy co-worker with a “no shit” attitude called it straight. “You’re not really ‘retiring,’ you’re just walking out the door and quitting!” Technically that’s true. Philosophically it isn’t since I’m not seeking full-time work but would be open to a thing now and again just to keep my brain sharp and my annoying self out of my wife’s hair in between bike rides, kayak paddles, bourbons on the patio and pushing the shopping cart at Kroger.
What have I learned after one week of intentional unemployment? I learned I missed the convenient ATM at work but not the over-cologned colleagues who always seemed to be standing just ahead of me on the escalator in an effort to cause “death by olfactory overload.” I learned that telling people you’ve retired causes immediate glances at your legs to see if they’re being held up by either a tripod, long loaf of French bread or cane signed by your erstwhile co-workers. Just because you retire does not mean you’ve given up your ambulatory rights.
It took only 17 minutes to tire of people cracking that I would now be eating dinner at 4 p.m., placing my teeth in a glass each night or would become a shuffleboard savant. I’ll have you know my late father was captain of the 3-time champion Buttonwood shuffleboard team in Greenacres, Fla. and taught me the intricacies of the game which includes blasting the other team’s discs into what’s known as “the kitchen”–the dreaded 10-off trapezoid.
I learned that utilizing senior discounts is not a stigma, but rather an excuse to say “nyah, nyah” to young punks stuck paying full price.
I learned Millennials is just another name for “Generation C”–C standing for “Ciphers.” Indeed, one former co-worker of that ilk said he could accomplish more but just “didn’t have the bandwidth” at this time. Or any discernable skills. In my brief retirement I let that sink in before pouring another bourbon to help me forget it.
I suppose I’ll learn a lot more as time passes and my full-time working life fades into distant memory. Of course there are people I will miss and those I regret missing–with every round. But the bottom line is so far I’m enjoying the time with my family even if every time I appear unexpectedly I hear one of them whisper, “he’s still here!”