The Gray Zone: Pack Your Bags, Men. Aging is an Adventure

By Kathryn White

Aging is many things, and for six men I spoke with on the topic of men and aging, it’s added up to an adventure.

As years accumulate, so too have new experiences and new ways of finding wonder in their lives. And like any good adventure, each also spoke of moments of trepidation. If you’re a man wondering if you’ve packed everything you’ll need for the adventure, these six fellas—ranging in age from 30-ish to 80-plus—are here for you.

Kathryn White

“Meaning is at the essence of aging well,” Rabbi Dan Roberts said. Roberts retired from 50 years in the rabbinate in 2019 and has since moved from Cleveland to Denver, adjusted to life in a retirement community during the pandemic, and has written two books.

“One needs, while you’re younger, to build up a cadre of all kinds of interesting things that you would like to do when you, for example, retire,” Roberts said.

Roberts has written a new ritual to mark the transition from work into retirement. It includes gathering with family and friends to acknowledge life’s accomplishments and to share about dreams and plans for the next stages of life.

Rick Olderman, a personal trainer and pilates instructor, sold his physical therapy clinic recently and is now exploring ways to deliver his downloadable home programs that help people with pain. He’s leveraging 25 years in the profession while also challenging himself to learn new skills. And now, with several books behind him covering topics in his field, he’s trying out new forms of writing.

“Curiosity is an important mindset for men as we age,” Olderman said. “It fuels adventures, it keeps us exploring and active.” Olderman’s career has given him a unique vantage point on aging. “When we’re younger we like to focus on strength training, and how our bodies look. As we age, our bodies become tighter. That tightness can lead to problems. If we start building flexibility components into our fitness routines early on, we set ourselves up to shift the balance toward greater flexibility as our bodies come to need it.”

Dr. Garrick Greear, a urologist at Colorado Center for Urology, echoes the important role choices play.

“We’re seeing the impacts of lifestyle and dietary issues throughout life,” Greear said. “The Western diet is not very healthy in general and so I think the most important thing men can do is to try to be proactive, to maintain daily physical activity, and try to eat as healthy as possible. Changes now will pay dividends later in life.”

Johnn Young, a community resource navigator with the Center for African American Health, said keeping active is also important.

“The physical body is meant to move,” Young said. “It’s like a car or a plane. A plane wasn’t meant to sit on the ground. A car wasn’t made to stay in the garage. Bodies need to be active, they need to be moved, stretched, fed good food.”

Dr. Robert C. Springs, who opened his family medicine practice at 41st Avenue and Federal Boulevard in 1975, gets to the heart of what several of the men I spoke with admitted to: a hesitance to visit doctors.

“There are a number of illnesses that can be either prevented or ameliorated if one goes to the doctor,” Springs said. “There are risks from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, kidney failure, prostatic enlargement. All of these issues arise particularly with men as they age, and these can be helped by consultation with a physician.”

“Changes that occur in your body will often be subtle,” Greear said. “It is important to be mindful of those changes, to look for warning signs of more serious issues. For example, urinary symptoms progress fairly insidiously. Maybe I only wake up once a night, and then it becomes 2 or 3 times a night. This can be a sign of prostate enlargement, which can cause issues down the road.”

Greear said by the time men reach the age of 40, they should really have a primary care physician and check in with them yearly.

“Delving into sexual health, studies like the Massachusetts Male Aging Study have shown that erectile dysfunction can be the first harbinger of cardiovascular disease,” Greear said. “Paying attention can prompt a more holistic workup, checking into cholesterol and other risk factors.”

Peter Strauss, co-founder of Nurture, the well-care marketplace at 29th Avenue and Federal Boulevard, adds another component.

“For men to focus on their physical well-being is more accepted by society,” Strauss said. “Emotional well-being, not as much space. The relationship between men and themselves and self care is different than women. I think it’s all about how you look at it. I’m aging, sure. It beats the alternative, right? And at the same time I’m convinced that some of my best days and memories have yet to happen.”

“For me, personally, it’s attitudinal. What’s available to me? Fitness, sleep, hydration, sexuality. Those things that keep us feeling alive and bring us joy, whether that’s travel, music, nature. Physical health, nurturing the soul and heart, and keeping your mind sharp, strong and engaged, and purpose in work.”

For Young it’s also about perspective.

“At a certain age you get to the point where you are going to say what needs to be said. Ask what needs to be asked,” he said. “I’d rather say it than regret not saying it. But that came with time. In hindsight, now that I’m in my mid-60s. I’d encourage men to go into each new situation knowing or accepting that you don’t know everything, and that it’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s important to realize that you are forever a student, forever learning something. You can’t fill a full cup.”

Kathryn White has lived in North Denver since around the time the Mount Carmel High School building was razed and its lot at 3600 Zuni became Anna Marie Sandoval Elementary. She’s raised two children in the neighborhood, worked at several nonprofits, and volunteered with the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter.

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Editor’s note: In the original post and the print edition, the name of Johnn Young was misspelled, and Peter Strauss is the co-founder of Nurture. We regret the errors.


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