Her nickname may be “the old lady,” but Judy Myers is no ordinary senior citizen. At age 66, Myers is the nation’s oldest female competitive barefoot water-skier.
“The first time you put your feet on the water, it’s something you can’t describe because you look around and you’re actually walking on water,” she said on TODAY Thursday.
A former physical education teacher and college administrator, Myers picked up the hobby when she was 53, and it has changed her life. “It gave me a new ambition and a new goal and made me realize that I didn’t have to sit behind that desk anymore,” she explained to TODAY’s Lester Holt.
“It keeps [me] young. It doesn’t make me feel younger — because I don’t think I’m old,” she added.
Nearly 80 million baby boomers — loosely defined as those born between 1946 and 1964 — are approaching retirement age, but many are redefining aging and reinventing themselves along the way.
About 80 percent of boomers plan on working in retirement, according to an AARP survey. While some will continue working by choice, many boomers who have been laid off or seen their retirement funds plunge will be forced to work longer. But instead of sticking with traditional jobs, many are reimagining their careers — and, like Judy Myers, pursuing their passions.
Americans between 55 and 64 years old are starting small businesses at a greater rate than all other age groups, according to a recent study by the Kauffman Foundation.
As for Myers, she didn’t plan on becoming a barefoot water-skiing champ, but once she tried it, it seemed like a natural fit. She grew up on the water and had always been fit and active. Now, she says she cannot imagine her life without barefoot water-skiing.
“It’s more than recreation; it’s a new lifestyle for me,” Myers explained.
With her academic career now behind her, Myers volunteers for half the year at a Florida shop that teaches barefoot water-skiing. “Life is too short to spend your time doing something you do not 100 percent enjoy,” she said.
Tips for boomers
Sharon Epperson, a personal finance expert, joined Myers on TODAY to offer some tips for baby boomers who are ready to reinvent themselves:
Evaluate your skills and talents. Consider your skills, interests, personality traits and work values. You can find many links to self-assessment and personality tests online. Check out The Riley Guide and Quintcareers.com.
Take advantage of free resources. If you are looking to start your own business, consider a class at a university or business development center. Go to the “50-plus Entrepreneur” section on the Small Business Administration's Web site. Also check out resources that offer mentoring and counseling classes such as SCORE.
66-year-old water-skier Judy Myers and personal finance expert Sharon Epperson spoke about reinvention late in life on TODAY.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Dr. David Demko, the gerontologist who coined the term “zoomer,” says 85 percent of how well you age is related to your lifestyle. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Exercise regularly. The healthier you are, the more physically able you will be to take advantage of a wide range of opportunities.
Find inspiration in others. See what others in your age group are doing. What are their extracurricular and intellectual pursuits? Talk to them about how they found that new challenge — whether it's a new career, business or hobby — and how it fits into their daily routine.