Senior Living: The joy of dragon boats and other paddling activities

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After retirement, you may find new enthusiasm on the water.

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Here’s something to think about: In a post-work life, is it possible to find satisfaction in trading the relentless productivity of the office with activities done simply for the sake of doing them?

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Recently, I asked readers for stories of change in my 60s, looking (as always) for inspiration as I negotiate my recent retirement. One of the hardest things for me has been loosening my attachment to goal setting and the brilliance of achievement that has marked my life as a full-time journalist.

I received several letters from readers who had, among other things, started a new business or charitable endeavor at age 60. I hope to share these stories over the coming months. But I’ll start with Marilyn Brulhart’s tale, which intrigued me because it wasn’t so much about change as it was about joy. This got me wondering if one can lead to the other, and if such a shift can be orchestrated, or if joy owes its existence to serendipity or even biology.

Brulhart’s story begins in the water. When she retired at 61 after 30 years in a fulfilling job teaching ESL, she wasn’t looking for something to do. Brulhart was already in two choirs.

But when a friend suggested a learn-to-dragon boat lesson at the False Creek Community Center in Vancouver, Brulhart was in on it. At the end of the lesson, her friend left in another direction. But Brulhart was hooked. About a decade later, it’s fair to say his life revolves around paddling in various forms, including the dragon boat, solo outrigger, and six-person outrigger.

“I’m paddling crazy,” Brulhart wrote to me, noting that one of his Orkney ancestors crossed the sea in the 1700s to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company. “It’s in my blood, I guess.”

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In a follow-up phone call, we discussed the details of his passion for paddling. One of the reasons Brulhart’s story is interesting is that she was never a person interested in individual or team sports. She was not inactive, having pursued dancing as an amateur at different times in her life. But the idea of ​​being side by side, huffing, puffing and sweating in a boat on the ocean had never occurred to him.

“I never thought I would say that, but I would now describe myself as an athlete,” Brulhart says.

The dragon boat not only made her physically stronger, it brought about mental changes. At every stage of his paddling career, Brulhart wavered. At first, committing to a team sport that involved training twice a week seemed like too much, but there were no other options if she wanted to paddle. So she joined Eh Team, a senior team at False Creek Racing Canoe Club, and dug in. It turned out that she liked the structure imposed by the schedule.

Then the idea of ​​competition was brought up. Nah, she thought. Too busy with the choir. But when an opening popped up in her schedule, she decided to give it a try.

“Whammo. I loved competing from the first starting horn.

Today, Brulhart paddles four mornings a week, even in the gray winter rain, wearing five layers of technical gear and a pair of knee-high boots to help ease the shoreline sloshing. There are out-of-town regattas, parties and dinners with new paddling friends.

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“I don’t know if it made me a different person, but it filled a lot of needs for exercise, structure, camaraderie and camaraderie, and goal-oriented effort, which I did. in my career,” she explains.

“Being retired is fantastic because I can do all these things that I love and I can’t find anything missing. I know that I have given a lot in my career and that I have done good in society. Now I can do it. I don’t offer much to society, but I’m in much better shape than I’ve ever been.

I think Brulhart is offering something important to society through his participation in the paddle. She is a model of change and aging. Brulhart is also a role model for herself, proving there are unexpected benefits to trying something new.

Here is another bonus. Sport made her more meditative. It may not show up in the great performance appraisal of life, but practice enhances the appreciation of each day.

Hear how Brulhart talks about being on the water.

“There is the aspect of the surface of the water. It could be glassy. Or if the weather is nice, it shines with a thousand sparkles. If it’s cloudy, there are nice shades of gray. It is infinitely fascinating and different. And then there are the birds. With the dragon boat we are only on False Creek, but with the canoe we are in the ocean. There are fleets of birds. The sound of flapping wings is simply exquisite.

— Liane Faulder writes the column Life in the Sixties

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