For 12 baby boomers in Southeast Ohio, being a senior citizen is simply a state of mind. For the first year, the region’s primary care physicians, operating as part of Trusted Senior Care Advantage, launched the Southeast Ohio 60 Strong calendar, a testament to the ability of seniors to live healthy lifestyles after 60.
The calendar features 12 “ambassadors” from ages 60-69 that exemplify how vibrant life can be at that age. It is also designed as a motivational tool to help other seniors stay active, providing recommendations on the area’s activities, health tips and other information to help seniors navigate Medicare.
“All of them are really healthy and living healthy lifestyles, being active,” says Patrick Goggin, sponsor of the contest and medical director for Trusted Senior Care Advantage. “Some of them are battling chronic health conditions or they’ve overcome the death of a spouse or overcome their own personal health problems.”
With different stories to tell, ambassadors define life after 60 on their own terms.
Years to Life and Life to Years
After seeing many of her friends run 50k and 100k marathons, Mary Kitzig’s decision to run 50 miles on her 50th birthday led her to a renewed health journey where she craves pushing her limits.
“So that started me into, ‘well if I can do 50, I wonder if I can do 70?’, ‘If I can do 70, I wonder if I can do 100?’,” Kitzig says. “It’s sort of this bizarre mindset that if someone did this, well I can do that.”
Fitness has always been a large part of Kitzig’s life. She ran cross-country in college but had some injuries, which led her to start biking more. Combining a love for running and biking, she found interest in duathlons. Adding swimming to the mix, she started competing in triathlons. In earlier years, Kitzig thought people who ran ultra-marathons were “crazy and stupid,” but she discovered that there was a pleasure to be had in the pain.
Now, Kitzig is retired and finds time to stay active with her body in various ways, such as trail running. She recently returned from a two-month trip in Colorado where she hiked five 14,000-foot mountains up and down. She’ll continue to run, bike and embody the 60-Strong-mindset she has acquired throughout the years, all while hoping to serve as an inspiration and resource to others.
“You know when you hit 50 or 60, people begin to tell themselves they can’t be as strong or healthy,” Kitzig says. “And I just don’t believe in that. I just believe that you can … You should have life to years and years to life. If I’m going to live to be 90, I don’t just want to be in a bed somewhere, so I want to look at proactive ways to keep that going.”
You Don’t Have to be an Angel
If you were to ask Steve Theodosopoulos why he works out, he would ask you why not. He wants to keep his body fit, so in his later years, he can keep doing more of what he wants.
Theodosopoulos’ fitness journey started in college, when a member of his fraternity, who was also an athlete, taught him the importance of diet and exercise. He has been mindfully active since.
Theodosopoulos previously ran marathons, but due to some lower back issues and other surgeries, he finds fitness in simpler ways, including swimming and hiking.
“It’s not easy; a lot of days I don’t want to do it,” Theodosopoulos says, “to be honest, there will be times throughout the year where it’s just impossible … But as soon as it slacks, I make sure I get back into it and get back on track.”
Theodosopoulos says it’s all about balance. He delights in beers occasionally, but also is cautious of eating processed foods out of convenience.
“Of course you can do things in moderation,” Theodosopoulos says. “I’m not always an angel, but I make sure I stay on that healthy mindset and path.”
His key to active aging? Just start.