He'll sneak up on you. He's inactive. He casts a dark and foreboding shadow for men of a certain age. If left unchecked, he'll kill you. He aims to take refuge in each aging man. He surrounds us. He is the old man threatening to get in, dominate you, and keep you miserable until you die.
I first learned about this intriguingly-named varmint when a friend sent me links to a story about Toby Keith and Clint Eastwood. After playing a round of golf together, Toby Keith, the country singer, asked Clint how he was going to celebrate his upcoming 88th birthday. Clint Eastwood replied with his trademark calm, "I'm about to shoot a movie". Toby Keith had trouble understanding the motive of the actor/director, so he asked, "But, why". You're going to be 88 after all". Eastwood's understated response: "I get up everyday and don't let the old man in".
How cool is that?
Although it is not our mantra for Men's Wisdom Works, perhaps it should be. My key goal in starting MWW was to prevent social isolation. That dreaded demon for older men can make the road to aging wind downhill with depression, misery, and early death. Social engagement and active aging transform that journey into an adventure.
Our efforts to "don't let the old man in" are working well. Permit me to cite a few examples of how our members live to keep the old man out. Richard paddles his canoe whenever the weather gives him the go signal. He's most fulfilled when challenging class 5 rivers like the New, the Colorado, and the Green Rivers. The more the rapids, the better. Richard is 71.
Gene was a couch potato before hanging up his career. Now, this 71-year-old mega hiker is set to traverse the El Camino De Santiago pilgrimage trail winding its way through Western Europe. His next hike will mark his 6th since 2011. Most of his hikes run about 500 miles. Gene paces the trails in about 32-35 days.
Ed played basketball throughout his educational years, and then for the Third Air Force Europe. Ed decided to test his surviving basketball skills once more, in a pick-up basketball game at Carrier Park, in Asheville. The other players were in their 30's and 40's. When his favorite hesitation, back-up, over the shoulder layup landed him flat on his butt, he concluded that working out in the gym would have to do from then on. Ed was 84 when his signature shot landed him on his pride and in the gym.
Several men in various MWW groups ride motorcycles in a group or solo. Many of our members teach classes at UNC Asheville's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Even more members take classes at OLLI.
Bill teaches poetry classes. Dave, from another MWW group, who never wrote a poem, is now prolific in the art as he writes thoughtful and reflective poetry. Ted has written two books in retirement and he's working on his third.
More than a few of our members took Randy's classes on writing and performing stand-up comedy. They all shined brightly in the spotlight before more than 100 audience members. Seventy-four-year-old Bill, dealing with Parkinson's for the past 14 years, lit up the audience in several of those performances with his killer material and delivery.
Members of one of our men's groups, Givens Guys Group, based at a retirement center in Asheville, range in age from 72-98. Their average age is in the upper 80's. They possess a special kind of wisdom that accompanies their remarkable life experiences. These men remind us of the importance of reinforcing the powerful three-legged stool to keep the old man from getting in. They define the three legs as physical exercise to keep the body in shape and adaptable; challenging mental activity to keep one's mind open, active, and adaptable; and living a spiritual life to embrace personal peace. They added that spirituality takes many forms, religious or non-religious. Larry, 85, summed it all up by adding that ultimately, it's one's attitude that drives the old man away.
The group's cheerleader, Smoky at 98, fends off the old man daily with his zest for life, razor sharp wit, and his personal brand of optimism. His upbeat nature rubs off on anyone nearby. The armor of joy shielding this veteran of Iwo Jima, wards off the old man. It's contagious.
As for me, I love my wife, I hike, ride my bicycle, walk 4 miles daily, exercise at the gym, kayak, play golf, meditate, and travel. I've morphed into a professional storyteller and writer...of MWW blogs. These are the elements of my invisible shield. For all our nearly 200 members, MWW stands as a fortress making it damned difficult to let the old man in.
Here are links to Clint and Toby's back story, and Toby Keith's song in Clint Eastwood's latest movie, "The Mule".
Click the next sentence to find The Back Story to Don't Let the Old Man In
Click the next sentence to hear The movie soundtrack to "Don't Let The Old Man In"