We recently had an “open day” at our croquet club. That’s when the club invites community members to come out and have a free game of croquet. About twenty people showed up to have a go. Most said that they had a great time learning something new. Five of them came back for a second try and have made the decision to become members.
We have an open day every year. It keeps our membership at a healthy level and provides people in the community with an opportunity to get involved in something that is fun, is challenging and provides some outdoors exercise.
Most of our members range from their sixties up to their mid-eighties. The vast majority are retired people who have consciously chosen to be engaged in an activity that is good for them mentally and physically. As I listen to their stories I’m impressed by the vigorous sporting activities they were involved with earlier in life. Many have been mountain bikers, back packers and hikers, swimmers, members of baseball, basketball, or football teams, or other similar physically challenging activities.
My story is quite similar. As a kid I used to play lots of tennis and basketball, I was a member of baseball teams from the time I was a pre-teen until I was in my forties. I got hooked on racket ball when I was a freshman in college and continued playing that sport until I was in my sixties. I back packed, jogged about three miles every other day and biked long distances on weekends.
Then my body began to pay the price of all this activity. I got plantar fasciitis from all the quick stops and starts of playing racket ball and had surgery to relieve pain and increase flexibility. I’ve had micro surgery on both knees to clear away shredded and torn cartilage and ligaments. More recently I have had to deal with rheumatoid arthritis.
Over time as my physical limits have increased I have had to figure out how to stay active in ways that are healthy and good for me. For example, I gave up racket ball with great regret and took up tennis again. That worked well for about five years until my knees complained and I switched from singles to doubles, which doesn’t require covering as much of the court.
That worked for a few more years, until my knees got worse and arthritis started to be a bother. I tried swimming, which doesn’t take a big toll on your body, but I was bored and didn’t stay with it. I turned to biking, which, like swimming, is low impact on your joints. I enjoy biking and try to get out for bike rides at least three or four times a week.
I realise, from a life time of sporting activities, that I am competitive and need to be involved with others in such activities. Racket ball was out of the question, tennis ran its course. What’s left? Then I was invited to try out the formal, not back yard, version of croquet. What a great game, a cross between pool/billiards and chess. A bit of exercise, lots of mental challenges, as well as the need to be very accurate with your mallet.
I’m addicted! I’m at the club four or five days every week, playing croquet with other addicts who love the competition and, as important, the socialisation. Who would have ever thought?
So what that much of what I used to do is no longer realistic for me to be doing now. But that doesn’t matter. I am just as happy playing croquet today as I was playing racket ball years ago. Sure, I miss it, but that’s not the point. I still am able to be involved in a sporting activity that I really enjoy and that is not harmful to my well being. It’s all about going with the flow. Yes our bodies will deteriorate as we age, but that just means adapting to that reality and making the most out of what we are TODAY.
By Mike Milstein.