Active, older people redefining common stereotype of senior citizen
Tuesday, August 05, 2014 10:26 AM
A local couple “eloped” last month. One was 83 and the other 89 years old. They didn’t submit a wedding announcement to our newspaper, so all the details aren’t available, but the event is of quite a bit of interest in the community.
Another person in her 80s, Mary Jo Dathe, who is well known in Spring Valley, did submit a newspaper announcement to the Spring Valley Tribune this week for her recent wedding. The historian and Spring Valley native Don Oss were married, naturally, in the local museum, where Mary Jo has spent so much volunteer time.
Marrying a second time late in life after the death of a spouse isn’t the only thing that has changed for older people today. These people just don’t fit the senior citizen term created in the 1930s or the senior citizen stereotype that evolved over the next several decades.
Our special section on the elder generation was renamed Living 50 Plus to get away from that stereotype and it featured active, older people volunteering, traveling, flying and even skydiving among other things.
However, a couple of the stories focused on area residents who are double the 50+ in the section title as they celebrated a century of living recently. Ollie Piehn of Harmony and Ethel Larson of Spring Valley both celebrated their 100th birthday early last month, and they have similar outlooks on living a long life — taking one day at a time, socializing with friends and keeping active.
That active part may be a key. All the 50+ people interviewed for our stories seemed to have that in common.
As Larson said, she isn’t ready for a wheelchair because once people sit down, that might be the end of walking. The 100-year-old doesn’t use just her legs to get around, though. She is well known for zipping about town on her scooter, particularly in the Ag Days parade every year. She bought the powered scooter when she decided it was time to give up driving a car — at 93 years old.
While many people in the 50+ group are thinking about sitting down, the ones that are full of life are the ones that seem to keep living well into their advanced years.
Even at 100 years old, Larson isn’t content with just existing. She told our reporter that she has been trying to convince a friend of hers to open a used-a-bit store downtown.
Another area almost 100-year-old, Marvin Rabe of Chatfield, whose story appears this week in the Chatfield News prior to his 100th birthday on Friday, credits his long life to square dancing, something he would never have taken up without the urging of his late wife 50 years ago.
He doesn’t dance now, but he made sure he did a lot of walking, “to keep limbered up,” before his birthday celebration last weekend.
It isn’t just local residents changing the definition of senior citizen. Saturday, 72-year-old Paul McCartney played a concert at sold out Target Field in Minneapolis. It wasn’t a lackluster, dawdling affair as he entertained fans of all ages for nearly three hours with no breaks, alternating between various guitars and keyboards on the 40 songs.
When McCartney was part of the Beatles 50 years ago, fans couldn’t imagine him entertaining them at 72. Back then, their image of someone that old was some feeble, elderly person locked away, not an energetic rock star gliding across the stage, entertaining youth and peers alike.
McCartney doesn’t need to tour for the money. He must love entertaining fans — or keeping active.
That zest for life goes for our local crowd on the other side of 50. As outlined in our recent stories, Donna Gartner of Preston doesn’t need to learn how an iPad operates, but now she won’t let her son take it away.
Arlene Austin of Mabel doesn’t have to spend so much of her time volunteering, but she thinks it is important to give back.
Glenn Kinneberg of Spring Grove doesn’t need to keep flying after doing it for the past 67 years, but he still loves the hobby.
Rushford resident Merle Evenson, who has been skydiving twice, isn’t about to become idle now that he is 76 years old. “I’ve only got so much time and I’ve got a bucket list,” he told our reporter.
Although Rabe told our reporter last week he never thought he would get to 100, he did have some astute advice for our Chatfield News baby boomers nine years ago when he was featured in the newspaper: “If they want to live a good, long life, stay active.”