Katie Couric at the 2023 Senior National Games

youThis month, thousands of athletes ages 50 and older will gather in Pittsburgh for Humana’s 2023 National Senior Games, where they will compete at the highest level in everything from swimming to track and field, basketball and volleyball, among other sports.

Call them inspiring. Call them fierce. Call them powerful. Just, please, don’t call them “cute,” says Katie Couric, the legendary journalist who is serving as a spokesperson for the games, commonly known as the “Senior Olympics” this year.

For Couric, sharing the stories of these top athletes isn’t just about the excitement of the competition (which is exciting indeed: clips from the event often go viral). It’s about debunking myths about what older people should and shouldn’t do, and promoting the importance of staying active as you age. “I love the message of staying vibrant and healthy,” she says. “Particularly now that I’m 66, I’m one of the people who is getting older and very active.”

Well+Good spoke with Couric about his own fitness routine, the ageism faced by older athletes and the Senior Games competitors he will be supporting.

The Senior Games athletes who inspire Couric

Of all the competitors he has spoken with, some stories stand out for Couric.

One is Willie Spuill, who was a veteran struggling with a myriad of health issues when he rediscovered running at age 60, then went on to sweep his track events at his first Senior Games. “This has opened up a part of him that really needed to be channeled, expressed and shared,” says Couric.

For DeEtte Sauer, learning to swim and eventually becoming one of the most decorated athletes at the Games (she won eight gold medals last year, the same as Michael Phelps at the Beijing Olympics, Sauer proudly shared with Couric) was key to your recovery. of alcoholism.

And at 94, Dwight Smith will compete for basketball gold alongside his son, Terry. Her granddaughter, Christie, will make her Senior Games debut in pickleball.

“You see the transformation in these people when they get involved in a sport,” Couric says. “But sport is only one part, it’s being with other people.”

How Couric Stays Active

As a longtime advocate of health and wellness, it’s no surprise that Couric’s own fitness regimen is extensive and ever-growing. An avid tennis and pickleball player (“I was an early adopter of pickleball,” she says), she also started Pilates during the pandemic, “because sitting that long really made me stiff and I needed to work on my core strength.”

She’s also a great walker, “especially since I was diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago,” Couric says. “I have to take these aromatase inhibitors, which can sometimes have a negative effect on bone density, so I walk a lot and do a lot of weight-bearing exercises.”

He is also working on his balance, aware of its increasing importance later in life to prevent falls. And, like most of us, you’re trying to stretch regularly.

Couric adds that he is drawing some inspiration from the Senior Games athletes he interviewed: “I really want to learn to swim,” he says. “I know how to swim, but I’ve never been able to do it without getting out of breath, so I think I must be doing something wrong. I was thinking of taking swimming lessons this summer.”

On age discrimination and taking older athletes seriously

Couric says she personally hasn’t come across any stereotypes about aging, “because I defy them on a daily basis and ignore anyone who underestimates me or tries to marginalize me,” she says. “I feel sorry for fools.”

But, she acknowledges that such stereotypes absolutely exist. “We have to fight the tendency to underestimate older people or infantilize them,” she says. “I get really mad when people say ‘Oh, she’s so cute’ about someone that she’s really accomplished. People may not take older people as seriously as they should, but I always think if you’re lucky, you’ll be one.”

“We have to fight the tendency to underestimate older people or infantilize them.” —Katie Couric

His advice? It’s never too late to start being active, whether it’s swimming, playing pickleball, or something else entirely. “Don’t let some kind of theoretical clock or calendar hold you back,” she says. “We are still really capable. Sometimes society tells you that you’re not, but if you just ignore that and move on, you can do many wonderful things throughout your life.

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