By Ellen Nason
If you have ever thought you were too old to run or start eating a healthier diet or simply too tired to take a walk or get out and play, performances the last two days at the 2015 National Senior Games, presented by Humana, might change your mind about making positive changes.
Patricia Fujii, of Boise, Idaho
Humana Game Changer Patricia Fujii, 83, of Boise, was given the gift of a YMCA membership by her children when she was 68. They may have given her the gift of a longer, happier life.
“They told me I needed to get in shape,” Fujii said with a laugh. “And I did!”
Fujii said she spent her teens working in a family restaurant, then immersed herself in college, work and taking care of a family. She had no spare time or energy for making sure she was physically fit, but she was inspired to change by her kids’ gift and has competed in three National Senior Games and several regional Senior Games.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, but it didn’t stop her from continuing her volunteer work, her work as a florist after retiring from teaching or her physical activity. In fact, it motivated her to exercise.
“The doctors said I would be tired, to expect to be tired because radiation kills off red blood cells, so I said, ‘OK, how do I get red blood cells’ and they said, exercise. So, I never stopped exercising.”
She competed in the Idaho State Senior Games one day after her last radiation treatment.
Her son David was watching proudly today when she competed in the first of several events she will participate in at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the National Senior Games track and field events are being held.
“I want to be like her when I grow up,” said David Fujii, 54.
Harold Bach, of Bismarck, North Dakota
Harold Bach, 95, beat cancer in his 80s and has been setting records on the track ever since. He won four gold medals at the 2013 National Senior Games and has repeated that remarkable feat in 2015. He won the 100-meter dash Thursday with a record time of 24.44 and the 200-meter on Friday, with a record time of 58.25. He also won the gold medal in the 50-meter and 400-meter races for his age group on Friday.
Bach was surrounded by family at the track, including his 5-month old great-grandson, Oliver, who Bach called his “best friend” after meeting him for the first time today.
Read more about Bach’s courage and perseverance in this article from the 2013 National Senior Games in Cleveland.
Fred Winter, of Holland, Michigan
Fred Winter is 100 years old and competed in javelin against 102-year-old John Zilverberg of South Dakota on Wednesday, the 100-meter dash and discus on Thursday and the 100-meter dash and shot-put on Friday.
Winter, surrounded by a crowd of family members wearing yellow Go Fred T-shirts, got serious about improving his health about 30 years ago and has no plans to slow down. As part of his training, he does 100 push-ups each day and participates in aerobics three times a week.
“I got started because I wanted to see how I compared with guys my age,” he said. And how does he think he compares? “Pretty good,” he said with a smile.
I think we can all agree that he compares “pretty good” with those more than half his age.
What is his advice for those who hope to follow in his footsteps and still be having this much fun at 100?
“Have faith in God, have faith in your fellow man and have faith in yourself,” he said.
The families gathered around these competitors today demonstrate the influence they are having on generations, motivating each to move toward better health and longer, happier lives.