Age is Just a Number

Derek Watts
By Derek Watts | Follow @DerekWatts
Derek Watts has been a journalist for nearly 30 years, presenting on South African television since 1985 as a sports anchor. Derek has been an anchor and presenter on Carte Blanche since the programme's inception in 1988. See full profile

One of the lies in life is “one size fits all.”

It doesn’t apply to socks. And it doesn’t apply to how we approach exercise during the euphemistically described Golden Years.

I was absolutely inspired, more truthfully overwhelmed, talking to Deidré Larkin from Randburg and Charles Eugster, based in Switzerland.

Deidré taking up running at the age of 78 and now, at 85, running out of space for all her medals. Oh yes, and shattering the age group world record for the half marathon by 20 minutes with a time of 2 hours 12 minutes and 45 seconds.

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It is just off the charts. But the boys aren’t far behind. There is Charles taking up weightlifting at 87 with the aim of building a beach ready body. Then breaking world sprinting records at 95!

It’s enough to get anybody lacing up the running shoes instead of walking the dogs – admittedly a bonus for body and mind in itself, as a recent Carte Blanche insert on preventing dementia showed.

The cruel fact is that we can’t all be like Deidré or Charles who’s wakeboarding in his eighties.

There are a myriad of physical and medical challenges some of us face – from limbs that are incapacitated to aching backs, heart problems and osteoporosis.

But do we tend to limit ourselves and not even explore our potential to improve strength and mobility? Enter the developing art and science of Active Ageing. Not just a buzzword but a project of the World Health Organisation.

And we saw the embodiment of Active Ageing at Biokineticist Hannah Raath’s classes where a cross-section of chronologically gifted citizens were given exercises within their capabilities to improve mobility and strength. Research shows that improved mental agility is a vital by-product.

Charles talked of a recent study where the residents of a frail care centre were given weight bearing exercises, some of which could be performed lying in bed. The results after a couple of months were staggering, with some case studies improving leg strength by 80 percent!

So the message of our story ‘Age is Just a Number’ is get up, get active and improve your quality of life.

And, who knows, you may find that there is a world champion in you who has been hidden for many decades.