In his later years, my father-in-law Lew Abe would routinely say to us, “Don’t get old!” as he confronted his many physical ailments. Unfortunately, Father Time catches up with all of us at some point but we can delay the process with a positive attitude and, of course, some form of exercise.
Well do you want to live longer? Try playing tennis. People who play tennis on a regular basis have the longest life expectancy compared with people who do other activities, such as jogging, swimming, or bicycling. If you are a tennis player ,you will live an average 9.7 years longer than people who do no exercise. This was according to researchers of the Copenhagen City Heart Study.
Having been a regular tennis player since the 9th grade, I hope that this study holds true! What I can tell you is the guys I play tennis with at Live Oak Park in Temple City are proof that this study is accurate and they are delaying Father Time catching up with them.
Two of the guys I play tennis with are in their 90s and most of the others are in their 80s with a few of us in our 70s and 60s. These guys should be on the cover of AARP magazine.
I’ve been playing tennis at Live Oak Park for over 30 years. We try to play three times a week in the morning. These days we do more talking than tennis. In between games a variety of topics are discussed. From politics to religion and of course the trivia question for the day, which usually involves an old movie or some long-time sports figure. The current state of the Dodgers or the Angels usually also is a topic of conversation.
Jokes are repeated, most are G-rated with an occasional PG-rated joke but ethnic humor is avoided and you could say most of the jokes are pretty corny. Stories are retold but we don’t mind because they sound better and better with each retelling. This regular social engagement is part of keeping the mind sound and preventing the isolation that affects some seniors.
It is a crew of retirees who were quite legit in their fields. Dr. Bob, in his mid-80s, taught at the USC medical school and ELAC and was a department head at Huntington Hospital. Clyde was a psychologist who was a faculty member at Fuller Seminary. Ray was a professor at ELAC. Dan and Jim are both retired educators and fellow teachers in the Alhambra Unified School District.
My buddy and former colleague Bob Wiessler is the senior guy here at 92. He has had an amazing Walter Mitty life! We tell him he should write a book. He is part of “The Greatest Generation” and served in the Navy during WWII. Bob was a member of the 1949 Pasadena City College State Championship baseball team and also played college ball at USC. In the 1950s, Bob was a recreation director for the workers at Enewetak Atoll and witnessed the hydrogen bomb tests in the Pacific.
In the late ’60s he taught school in Peru, where he met his wife Judy. One of his greatest adventures was driving a VW Bug all the way back from Peru to Alhambra.
Bob’s wife Judy is the lone woman in this group and is a dead ringer for Sophia Loren. We kid Bob that he lucked out and married above his pay grade, which he acknowledges he did.
What makes all these seniors special is not only their commitment to regular exercise but the fact that they are also still very competitive. Most of them have had some health setbacks. Dr. Bob has a really bad ankle but he still goes after balls and doesn’t like to lose. Clyde’s game is unique in that he can hit the ball with both hands and at 91 still hates to lose. When my friend Bob makes a bad shot, he grits his teeth and you know he is mad at himself.
Like Ponce de Leon, these guys may not have found “The Fountain of Youth,” but more importantly they are not sitting at home watching TV and they are trying not to get “old” too soon!
Bill Yee is a retired Alhambra High School history teacher. He can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.