The Last Gasp

Apr 21, 2014

When the sun begins to peek out, however reluctantly, and the temperature crawls up to a tolerable level I always have the irrational feeling that I should be more active instead of spending my days reading and writing and feeding cats. A lot of senior citizens in search of eternal youth are fiendishly active these days. They go to the gym or the swimming pool every day, or run ten miles at dawn or do Tai Chi or Kung Fu or Pilates (whatever it is) or Jazzercise or one of the other tortures invented for the elderly.

Far from being healthy this seems like a plot to hasten us on our way and save the social security budget. Earlier generations didn’t act like this. When they reached retirement age they stopped, quite literally, and took it easy. This makes perfect sense. Bodies get old and creaky, just like machines.  It makes no sense to hammer our bones and muscles when they are already mostly worn out. It’s like putting a classic car in the Indianapolis 500 when it should be in a museum. My grandmother, who barely moved for the last thirty years of her life, lived to be a hundred and my mother, following the same regime, lived to a hundred and three.

That’s why I say that this urge to be active is irrational, but nevertheless it is strong at this time of year. It persuaded me to look into a sports emporium that happens to be next to the place where I buy my office supplies. I was thinking (if I was thinking at all) that there might be some harmless and painless sporting activity suitable for persons of my age.

At first glance it seemed more like a shoe store than a sports store, with enough footwear to equip a whole nation of athletic centipedes. A bored young man explained to me that no kind of sport can be attempted without the right kind of hi-tech shoes. They even had special shoes for walking, although I have been walking in ordinary shoes all my life. There were shoes for golf, shoes for cycling, shoes for tennis and basketball and gymnastics. Somewhere in the back of the store there were probably shoes for tiddlywinks, and quite possibly shoes for playing video games. Another essential for the sporting life, I discovered, is the right clothing. A good half of the store was given over to workout suits, polyester tights, and other garments in rainbow colors.

The remaining sales space displayed actual sporting equipment, most of it complicated and expensive. I examined the bikes because I used to enjoy cycling, but I don’t think I could learn to ride one of these amazing machines with about fifty gears and a mass of accessories including a tiny computer that will tell you how fast you have travelled, how far, and perhaps why. A bike alone is not enough: you need a helmet, a hydro pack whatever it is (presumably a bottle of water) and a chain big enough to secure Fort Knox. The only equipment in the store that looked user friendly were some hula hoops left over from the 1950s and a box of colored beach balls, but I don’t see how these would fit into my lifestyle.

Clearly the sporting life is not for folks of my age. I would look silly in the clothes and I couldn’t afford the equipment. I’ll stick to my old regime and just take a walk in the park, in my regular shoes, and my regular clothes.

Copyright: David Bouchier