When and how did this happen?
When did we so-called baby boomers become Older Americans, coming up fast on age 70?
Those are questions some male friends of a certain age and I found ourselves asking this past weekend during the course of a men-only getaway to a mountainside retreat in the Adirondacks. (In deference to the concept of equal rights, some of our wives and daughters spent the weekend at health spas elsewhere in the New York Metro area.)
As you might expect, the boys’ weekend discussion covered much familiar territory: old athletic exploits, recent medical appointments, the miracle of children and grandchildren, lost (and found!) loves, varied methods of cooking sausage and the comparative merits of Dewar’s White versus Johnnie Walker Black.
But this Boys’ Weekend in the Wilderness also covered some new ground this year, namely the fact that all seven of us are certifiably old men. Chronologically, at least. But why, then, don’t we act our age?
When our fathers, many of whom served in World War II, were this approximate age, they had been retired for years and had played their last set of tennis some two decades earlier. In our group of seven — which I don’t claim to be representative of anything other than the value of old friends — two are totally retired, three are semi-retired and two are working full-time.
And we are physically active compared to our fathers at the same age. We still play tennis, platform tennis and golf. Two of us row competitively. All of us walk (or jog) and ride our bikes regularly. And, as if to prove that we’re not totally over the hill, the majority of us took a sometimes strenuous two-and-one-half-hour uphill hike on the Lost Pond Trail on Saturday.
In recent times, I also have taken inspiration from a group of my senior tennis buddies. Many of them are in their 70s and a couple are in their 80s. And then there’s 90-something Carl, who not so long ago declined to sit down during change-overs between games or even to take a sip of water during a competitive three-set match in 90-degree heat.
Talk about inspiring. In some ways, we are the Fitbit Generation. Honestly, I don’t think this represents a desperate attempt to forestall old age. It’s just the way we live our lives in this day and age, oh so differently from how our fathers lived theirs. Some day — hopefully in the distant future — I may reassign myself permanently to my Big Leather Chair, but until then I plan to continue to make believe I’m younger than I actually am.
And to heed the sage words of French actor-singer Maurice Chevalier, who, when asked how he approached life in his 80s, replied: Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative. Tennis, anyone? No? Then how about a nap?
Troy Gustavson is the former publisher of The Suffolk Times. He can be reached at [email protected].