Elders, which new doors will you walk through this year?

By Kathryn White, The Denver North Star

These elder women demonstrate that now is the time for action and adventure

When I heard Virginia Gonzales’ voice on the phone, I wondered about her news. I covered Gonzales’ retirement in October 2021; the long-time Denver businesswoman had just celebrated her departure from Hair on Earth salon. However, before selling her business, she had taken up softball for the first time. Her team – the Colorado Peaches – was preparing for its annual trip to compete at the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah.

Now, she was reporting on the team's most recent efforts. “It was really something! The music and the flags at the opening ceremony of the games, it was quite impressive, like the Olympics,” Gonzales said.

The Peaches had fielded a team of 80+ year-olds at the games. Since theirs was the only team in its age group – the most senior of any – the Peaches competed against players a decade or two younger in age. Gonzales and the Peaches brought home gold.

Peaches teammate Caryn Fox exuded enthusiasm much like Gonzales’ when I sat down with her at Vantage Movement where she runs the Fearless Over 50 crossfit-style class. Fox, now a personal trainer and fitness instructor, recounted the turning point that got her there: her children had left for college.

She and her husband looked at each other and said, “Well, it’s up or down.” They decided on up.

Not long after, she fell in love with fitness. “I was nearly 200 pounds at 50 years old, and I was in so much pain I could hardly move,” Fox said. “Now, here I am at nearly 60, healthier than I’ve been in my whole life, fitter than I’ve been in my whole life and probably happier than I’ve been in my whole life. If I could get other people to feel this, that would be amazing. That’s my jam.”

Twice a week, Fox guides the Fearless Over 50 group through a structured series of warm-ups and exercises. She checks their form and works through individual issues that come up.

To Fox, “It’s fitness you use for your life. Like flipping those tires. If you need to lift something heavy, a piece of furniture for example, it’s going to be the exact same movement. So much of what we do is designed to be something you can use in your day-to-day life.”

“Once every couple of weeks one of the 20-, 30- or 40-somethings in here will come up to me and say, ‘I want to be you when I grow up,’” Fox said.

Photo of an older woman w/curly gray hair wearing a green-and-white jersey catching a softball
With the Colorado Peaches, everybody plays. Photo by Eric Heinz, Denver North Star

Maggie McCloskey, another teammate, is 91. She was 77 when she first set out to practice with the Colorado Peaches in 2008. Someone on the team had invited her and she thought to herself, “Well, why not?”

McCloskey gets a thrill out of seeing women come back to softball since, perhaps, childhood, like she did herself, or for the first time ever, like many Peaches. The team welcomes and supports all abilities.

“Watching women who haven’t played in 20, 30 years and coming out, I remember one woman saying, ‘I didn’t know I could still run.’ She was 72,” McCloskey said. “How often do you have to sprint at our age? As someone who has been playing for a while, it’s just such a thrill for me. They are tapping into their childhood again. How often do women just play? And it’s not just about playing a game. It’s about exploring and realizing there are opportunities to do things you would never think of doing.”

“Like, I box,” continued McCloskey. “It was the last thing I’d ever think of doing, but somebody invited me and I thought, oh sure.”

There’s no shortage of opportunities to try something new. Go online to look into local rec center activities. Look at flyers posted in the grocery store or your favorite shop. Walk in the door at a gym nearby. Ask your friend how they got into tai chi or running or pilates ... or softball.

For Fox, taking that first step, walking in the door at the gym, was the hardest. “Take a couple of personal training sessions first if that feels right,” she suggested.

If you’re already involved in something you absolutely love, something that puts a smile on your face and makes you feel better than you have in a long long time, why not invite a friend or neighbor to join you? It just might be the nudge they need.

Read the original article here.

Kathryn White has lived in Denver since around the time the Mount Carmel High School building was razed and its lot at 3600 Zuni became Anna Marie Sandoval Elementary. She’s raised two children in the neighborhood, worked at several nonprofits and volunteered with the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter.

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