As a caregiver, you know that sometimes seniors find comfort in hearing from others who are also contending with the challenges of advancing age. And while celebrities are often highlighted for their perspective on this topic, many sports legends also have a few things to say about aging and the challenge of keeping fit and active as one ages.
“The older I get, the better I used to be,” mused John McEnroe.
Now 63, McEnroe won seven Grand Slam singles titles and was known as the bad boy of tennis because of his confrontational style.
Speaking of tennis, another icon of the sport, Chris Evert, has weighed in on getting older.
“I’ve always stayed in pretty good shape—I don’t have drastic stiffness or any kind of injuries,” said Evert, 67. However, she acknowledged that, “as you get older you don’t have the balance or the flexibility.”
During her career, Evert won 18 major singles titles, including a record seven French Open titles and six U.S. Open titles.
She has offered a few helpful tips for embracing exercise at any age:
- Be smart, exercise safely.
- Adjust your fitness expectations as you age.
- Include, if you can, a variety of cardio, strength or resistance training and flexibility exercise to your routine.
- Remember that every little bit of activity helps.
Dorothy Hamill, 66, the 1976 Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater, agrees:
“It’s so hard to take a huge leap,” she said. “Take a little leap by walking a few blocks or taking the stairs. Little things like that can add up. Do a gentle run in place at home. Maybe do it twice a day. Before you know it, you’ll feel better. It’s the movement that matters.”
Golf legend Lee Trevino, 83, who won six major championships and 29 PGA Tour events over his career, agreed that activity is important.
“Suppleness is number one. You have to be able to bend down and touch your toes. You have to be able to put your socks on. You have to stretch. Ride a bike a little bit. Lift light dumbbells. I don’t have a La-Z-Boy in the house. Why? Because I would sit in the damn thing and never move.”
Knowing your limitations also is important for seniors wanting to stay fit. Nolan Ryan, 75, had a 27-year career as a Major League Baseball pitcher spanning four decades, finally retiring at age 46. He addressed this issue of aging when he talked about pitching late in his career:
“Everyone has limits,” he said. “You just have to learn what your own limits are and deal with them accordingly.”
Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Namath, 79, who quarterbacked his New York Jets to a Super Bowl victory in 1969, can often be seen these days on TV, advertising for Medicare Advantage plans. He recently cited three activities he tries to do every day he believes are keys to successful aging. He practices meditation, takes “a 20-minute nap” and, because he lives down the street from his daughter, Jessica, tries “to see my grandkids every day.”
Finally, back to the world of tennis for some parting words of wisdom on aging from Billie Jean King, 79, who won 12 Grand Slam singles titles in her career. She said knowing one’s self is key.
“I think self-awareness is important. … I know it’s very important to me as I age. Also… never underestimate the human spirit at any age. We all have our dreams, and we have to stay connected to them, though we may have to change and adapt our goals. We can keep reinventing ourselves, no matter what our age. I just think it’s important to keep going, because what choice do we have? I can be a complainer today, or I can pick myself up. … We can do so many things at any age, and we don’t realize it.”