More than 10,000 people turn 65 every day. They want to be active and not melt into their couches.
There is a feeling that 60 is the new 40, 70 is the new 50 and 80 is the new 60.
What healthy things are Southwest Floridian seniors doing? We will take a look all month long.
This week: Roller skating
Next week: Weightlifting
Evelyn Harriman can’t roller skate anymore because of arthritis and neuropathy. She misses it terribly. “I think it’s the best exercise in the world,” Harriman said. “I wish I could still do it.” That doesn’t stop the Estero resident from coming to Bamboozles Skating & Event Center in Fort Myers with husband Harold and watching the other 15-20 seniors on Thursday morning’s designated skating day. For about 90 minutes, the skaters would glide around the wooden floor to the tunes of ‘Anchors Away,’ ‘Old Cape Cod’ and ‘Moonlight Serenade’ as well as waltzes, marches and tangos. Some of the skaters returned to the activity after rearing their children or retiring and have laced them up for more than 40 years. The oldest skater is Bill Conrad, 84. Monna Lukehart prides herself on being the oldest woman at 83 ½. Despite dizziness, she wanted to skate; and friends held her arm or elbow as they wheeled around. Lukehart echoes other women when she told her future husband, “I’m a skater. … If you have a problem with that, adios.” Staying active, being part of a social group and exercising are three of the reasons these folks keep skating. Harold Harriman said his app showed he burned 2,631 calories skating. Barbara King, 72, of Fort Myers said she burned 740 calories after 20 laps but why she does it goes way past that. “It’s a comfort zone,” she said. “You’re not reclaiming youth but it was a pleasure point in your life and here it is again. I don’t skate backwards anymore. You don’t have to do anything fancy. Just skating to the music is pleasurable.”Long history Roller skating goes back to the 1700s, according to SkatingFitness.com. The website notes it made its mark in the United States in the late 1880s thanks to James Plimpton, who designed a better roller skate, built rinks in New York City and Newport, Rhode Island, and rented out skates. Roller skating in all forms continued to become more popular and expand as a recreational pastime in the early 1900s. Because it was inexpensive, activity rose during The Depression. It declined during and following World War II because of cars and movie theaters, but there still were pockets where it flourished. The Harrimans and Denise Sliwa grew up in Chicopee and Haverhill, Massachusetts; Lukehart in Pittsburgh; King in San Antonio and Beverly Ritchey, 68, in Chicago. “That was about the only thing to do,” Sliwa said. Lukehart remembers when the rink would be packed with a couple of hundred skaters. “If somebody fell, look out,” Lukehart said. The sport grew in the 1950s and ‘60s before exploding in the ‘70s, thanks to disco and an interest in artistic, figure, dance, speed, roller derby, and freestyle roller skating. While some of the senior skaters did proficiency testing, some competed. The Harrimans went around the country. They once finished fifth among skaters in Canada and the U.S. “We were at the rink seven days a week,” she said. Some of the skaters now skate with their grandchildren. “I did a session under a limbo stick and made it three times,” King said. “On the fourth, I sat on my butt and earned a round of applause from the kids. I got good grandma points.” Others enjoy it sport so much, they’ll travel. Ritchey will return to Chicago where she’ll skate to Frank Pellico, the organist for the NHL’s Blackhawks. Jan Edwards, 67, came down from Lake Placid to skate with friends. She and Sliwa also will go up to the Orlando area on senior days. A big event coming up is Extravanaga 2016, which will run from Feb. 7-10 at Skate Reflections in Kissimmee and Semoran Skateway in Casselberry. Hundreds will attend. Whether in a big group or just a handful of people, the seniors love a good skate. While some don’t do the sport anymore because of a fear of falling and breaking something, Lukehart noted her husband died after tripping over a dog and breaking his neck. Mary Pyche, 72, has done this she was 10. Her family has owned six different rinks the past 50 years. Pyche still teaches; and she still skates. For how long? “Until my dying day,” she said with a giggle. “You know that saying, ‘Do what you love?’ That’s it.”