Introducing the 2024 Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes – Senior Planet from AARP

For the fifth year, Senior Planet from AARP put out the call for “Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes” — adults age 60 and older who are excited about fitness, have identified their wellness-related goals, and are willing to share their experiences to inspire other older adults. After reading through some incredible applications, a selection committee from Senior Planet selected five new older adult athletes. Their stories inspired us, and — we think — will inspire you: Putting Her Own Spin on It Putting Her Own Spin on It
“Choose to be a rebel. Get out of your comfort zone, and show your world that this is what aging and retirement look like now!” -Jan Haig Jan Haig – Age 67 Jan Haig’s fitness journey began in the 80s with aerobics — first taking classes, and later becoming a certified instructor. In the late 90s, she adding running to her repertoire, participating in over 30 marathons and several ultramarathons. While at the top of her game, Jan unexpectedly developed a permanent issue with her lower back, forcing her to give up running and teaching high-impact classes. Just when she was beginning to feel like her lifetime of workout options was reaching an end, Jan’s orthopedist suggested indoor cycling. In just three years, Jan has completed over 800 spin classes! She’s now ready to become a certified instructor. Jan hopes to specialize in teaching classes that cater to the injured or aging athlete. “I want to help people like me, who were accustomed to going hard, but whose athleticism has (by necessity) declined a bit, like mine.” As a Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete, Jan hopes to share her own fitness ‘pearls of wisdom’ that apply to everyone — and hopefully inspire others to reach for a higher level of fitness. Service and Strength Service and Strength
“I am very excited about being selected, and I’m looking forward to sharing my health and wellness journey. I hope to get more seniors to exercise consistently.” -William Lee William Lee – Age 66 William Lee became involved with fitness during his time in the U.S. Army, when he was selected to attend the Soldier Physical Fitness Academy (Master Fitness Trainer Course). After graduating, William returned to the unit where he trained and taught hundreds of soldiers in fitness and nutrition. After retiring, William began working for the U.S. Postal Service as a City Mail Carrier. Years removed from his focus on fitness, he became seriously ill while on his route one day. A visit to the doctor revealed extremely high blood pressure and a diagnosis of Stage 4 kidney disease. William immediately restarted his daily workout routine, and credits it for saving his life. Today, William has a fitness channel on YouTube with over 300 videos and has continued his education — receiving a Fitness and Nutrition diploma from Stratford Career Institute, and becoming certified as a Master Personal Trainer by the American Sports & Fitness Association. “What would make me happy as a Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete is to see more seniors working out and understanding the importance of fitness, health, and wellness. You’re not too old, and life is not over yet!” Back Into Action Back Into Action
“I’m ready to inspire seniors all over the world to look at their possibilities and not their circumstances.” -Harold Sanco Harold Sanco – Age 62
For nearly 50 years, Harold Sanco has participated competitively in various forms of fitness — first, as a high school track standout, and then lettering in tennis throughout high school and collegiate levels. As he reached adulthood, Harold found more joy teaching and motivating others to achieve their health and fitness goals, becoming a personal trainer and tennis coach. Everything changed last year when Harold underwent two emergency lumbar surgeries, leaving his once fit frame largely immobile, weak, and without the muscle development he’d spent decades training. But with the right mindset of acceptance, and embracing support from his community, Harold has been able to fully recover and is now cleared to resume all of his former activities. This process was a slow and dedicated one, with Harold learning countless lessons that he hopes to pass on to the Senior Planet community as a 2024 Sponsored Athlete. “I’m still progressing and have my challenges, but I have learned to celebrate every small victory and keep pushing to reach my goals. With patience, perseverance, and the right mindset, you can return to fitness after back surgery and enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle once again. We’ve got this Senior Planet! ” From Worries to Warrior From Worries to Warrior
“We have two choices at this point in our lives: to lay around or move around. I choose to move — and from there, I get to motivate and inspire others! If I can do it, anybody can. One movement at a time!” -Thomas Simek Thomas Simek – Age 71 At age 59, Thomas Simek was overweight and had difficulty catching his breath after walking up the smallest of hills. At the constant urging from his wife and daughter, he finally scheduled a physical, which revealed a diagnosis of high cholesterol, osteoporosis, and a severe case of sleep apnea. Thomas decided to change his lifestyle and reclaim his health, focusing on proper nutrition, sleep, and stress management. To increase his activity level, Thomas took up walking, and then added yoga, bodyweight exercise, and even men’s senior baseball. It was Thomas’ involvement with track and field — and the birth of his granddaughter — that really kicked his fitness journey into high gear. Thomas and his granddaughter cheer each other on at track events, occasionally getting to participate in meets together. He has also competed in the American Ninja Warrior competition, and will be featured again (alongside his granddaughter) this year! Thomas believes that it’s never too late to make positive changes in your life. As a Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete, he hopes to connect with as many people as possible. “It brings me such joy to model what is possible at the age of 71 and to be told that I am an inspiration to others. I can only hope that I can continue this way into my nineties.” Joy in the Journey Joy in the Journey
“One of my goals is to continue learning how to hold on to physical strength, as I age, and share what I learn with my senior community.” -Nancey Walker Nancey Walker – Age 62 At age 37, Nancey Walker weighed 250 pounds and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and Ketoacidosis, a life-threatening disease. Having also seen family members suffer due to chronic pain and disease, Nancey decided to be the family cheerleader by letting them know — and showing them — that health can be reclaimed as we age. Nancey discovered a fitness community and program and now lives her journey out loud! She participates in weight training, walking, cardio, and meditation, while focusing heavily on nutrition and her new-found love of juicing. “Over these past few years, my understanding of fitness has evolved into a head-to-toe mentality; fitness is not about a dress size or a number on the scale but about how I feel (mentally and physically), how strong I am as a senior, and how much joy this journey actually brings me. Being open to learning new fitness skills, sharing what I learn with others, and not being afraid to fail forward is what keeps me going!” As a 2024 Sponsored Athlete, Nancey hopes to share “the gift of movement” with the Senior Planet community, and show that one can move at any age. How to Follow Along Each Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete has an inspiring story and a unique perspective on fitness, and each uses technology to support their fitness routines. All year long, they’ll be inviting us into their lives, and sharing their challenges and successes by writing blog posts here at They’ll also host virtual fitness events throughout the year that you can participate in. Want to catch up on the stories from last year’s athletes? Click here! In need of a little motivation to get moving? Join our daily health and wellness programs, subscribe to Senior Planet on YouTube, sign up for our weekly newsletters, and follow us on social media (Facebook | X (Twitter) | Instagram) to get to know these awe-inspiring athletes. You might just find a new love for fitness along the way! Sean Cruse is the Communications Manager at Senior Planet & OATS from AARP. He has worked in nonprofit and social impact communications for almost 10 years. Sean is involved with all things Senior Planet communications, from email newsletters (sign up here!) to creative projects. He also co-leads the Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete program and loves helping our team of amazing senior athletes share their stories.

This content was originally published here.

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