I came across this article last week, “How old is too old to skateboard?” The author talks about “skate geezers”, men he says are too old to be riding skateboards and to be “thinking they’re cool”. He brings up valid points- that falling hurts a lot more when you’re older (it does), injuries may have more consequences (like missed work or lost income), and a grown man will probably look silly dressed like the younger kids or trying all kinds of tricks. He does acknowledge, at least in part, being jealous because these ‘geezers’ can still skate and he gave it up years ago. The writer does give credit to skateboarding as a form of exercise and transportation, as not being harmful to the environment, and as having potential to make a dad seem less boring than himself, walking home from work.
Incidentally, I grew up skateboarding, and although it’s been years since I’ve skated every day, I still do it on occasion. I still love it, but today it’s just in a different way. I might skate once every week or two these days when the weather is good. I also bought myself a longboard when I earned my doctorate, which I think is more conducive to old age than throwing myself down flights of stairs on a regular board! I also wear a helmet, which is something I would not have done as a teenager. And I don’t follow skate fashion, read every magazine, or know (or care) who rides for what company anymore.
I wanted to comment on the article because I think it brings up things like self-care, the importance of having hobbies, and the importance of staying physically active as you get older. Although the author borders on accepting skateboarding as a valid activity for a ‘geezer’, his criticism suggests an all-or-nothing mentality- that when we reach X age or Y point in our lives, we have to give up certain things that we love to do. I disagree, but with the caveat that the way you do it might just change over time. Take music for example. There are some people who grew up listening to or playing really heavy music- metal, hip hop, punk, electronic, and so on. Many still like it, but might also prefer their music a little softer with age. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are a band who exemplifies this. They do still make some upbeat, funky songs like they did in the 80’s and 90’s, jumping all over the stage and doing wild things– but more often, they’re making lighter, more soulful songs than they did back then. In my opinion they’re aging well- still having fun, playing the music that many of us know and love, but not deluding themselves into thinking they’re still 21.
Physical activity should be no different. Sure, your body changes with age, and you have less time and more responsibilities, but it doesn’t mean you have to become whatever stereotype of what a “grown-up” is. If you enjoy skateboarding, BMX biking, surfing, snowboarding, dirt biking, 4-wheeling, wakeboarding, rodeo riding, go-kart racing, breakdancing, or something else- by all means, go for it. Live life, have fun, do what you’re passionate about. Why shouldn’t you? Yes, there may come a time when your body just can’t handle the activity, when it becomes too costly, or when you start to lose interest or get into something else, but if the pros outweigh the cons, that’s a different story. Here are 5 reasons to keep at whatever it is that you’re into:
1) It’s still fun. If you get joy from something, why wouldn’t you do it? For me, skateboarding is about the only thing that has ever given me a flow experience– when you’re having a really fun time, lost in the activity, and thinking of nothing else. I like other things, but nothing else has ever come close. As an adult, life is full of stress and obligation, so take time for something enjoyable. And it’s self-care, we need it. The benefits for stress relief are tremendous. There are benefits for others too, because you’ll be more pleasant to be around.
2) Many activities are great exercise. As you get older, you need all of the exercise you can get, and sometimes going to the gym gets boring or can be hard to fit in. It’s also good to mix it up. Even if you love going to the gym, running, or riding a bike, why not add some variety? Just know your limits and take it easy.
3) By the time you’re __, who cares how you look? Being self-conscious is a 17-year-old mentality. Not that we shouldn’t care at all, but what I mean is, if you’re having fun doing something you like to do, who cares what others think? You only live once…haha. By the way, having hobbies makes you a more interesting person. As an example, I sometimes attend trainings a mile from home. If the weather is nice, I take advantage and ride by bike or longboard. I don’t care who sees me or what other professionals in the room might think.
4) If you have kids, they might enjoy the activity too. Whatever you’re into, introduce your kids to it. Get them a little skateboard when they’re old enough to play around with it- or a trick bike, snowboard, or whatever. Don’t push them into it, but let them give it a try. If they don’t like it, just keep doing it yourself and maybe they’ll come around, maybe not. If they like to do it, even once in a while, it can be great parent/child or family time. I introduced my sons to snowboarding and they love it. My wife hasn’t gotten out there with us yet, but has expressed interest. Maybe next year…
5) If you’re friends are still into it, you can do it together. As a father, husband, and psychologist I don’t get a lot of time with friends, but I have a few high school buddies who still skate and we meet up every so often at the skatepark for an hour or two- after work or on the weekend. We even sometimes have father/son skate time on Saturday or Sunday mornings. The teenagers don’t hit the park until 11 or 12:00, so we have it all to ourselves. A friend of mine also has a ramp (halfpipe) in his barn, and on a weekly basis we would get together and skate at 9, 10, or 11:00 at night. I haven’t done this in a while, but it was a lot of fun.
So get out there and do what you like to do. Of course, know your limits, make sure your health insurance is paid-up, and try to incorporate time with family and friends. Work hard, but don’t forget to play. Live life to the fullest and you won’t regret it.
If you feel like you’ve lost touch with your interests; don’t have many friends to do things with; don’t have many hobbies; if you feel over-stressed; if you feel as though you can’t find the time; or if something else is holding you back, think about why that might be. Try to remember what you used to enjoy- talk to people- do some research. Find something that looks like fun and try it. If you don’t have success, a psychologist can help you to sort it out- to address the core issues, set some goals, and make a plan for change. You only live once, so whatever your situation, there is no reason why you can’t add more fun.
Dr. Jesse Matthews is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Chester Springs, PA. He helps people of all ages to address many kinds of issues. You can view his Psychology Today profile here. For any questions or to arrange an appointment, please contact him at 610-482-4496 or firstname.lastname@example.org.