Ellen Jaffe Jones (70) is competing with other athletes in her age bracket (70-74) at the National Senior Games in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, from May 14-24. This isn’t her first time at the games. They have been a part of Ellen’s life since she took her kids to see the very first ones in St. Louis in the 1980s. At the time she had gone to support her cousin who was in charge of setting up the local facilities, but now she goes to compete.
“Racing is all about showing up!” And that’s what Ellen plans to do at the senior games. As of right now, she’s planning to participate in all seven events for her age group. So long as she stays healthy and uninjured she plans to run them all including the final 1500-meter race.
Her favorite events are those with the least competition though she enjoys the relays as well. This year she’s going to the game with sponsorship from GetSetUp.
GetSetUp is dedicated to empowering older adults to learn, share, and explore throughout all stages of their lives.
Ellen was drawn to GetSetUp because she felt it was a good sponsor fit for the goals she saw herself accomplishing.
“People need a sense of community and GetSetUp makes it so easy. The process of aging together can make us all feel so connected!”
She will not only be sharing her accomplishments with the GetSetUp community but also highlighting her knowledge of fitness and healthy eating for the GetSetUp community by appearing in classes and as a Guest Speaker on the GetSetUp platform.
GetSetUp community members can use her accomplishments as an inspiration to get up and run to get their endorphins kicking in. Often Ellen and her boyfriend (who is 15 years younger and a vegan as well) drive an hour or two to find a race because they are that driven.
“I wanted to be available on a different level for my daughters. I grew up around a lot of secondhand smoke and people who aged before they needed to. You don't have to sit back in the easy chair and let life float by.”
Ellen noticed at her 50th high school reunion more than ever before how the opportunities for women have changed. When she and her colleagues were in school they had limited options for extracurriculars, perhaps just home economics and field hockey. A few decades later, her youngest daughter got a full ride to USC for pole vaulting.
“The opportunities for girls and women are much greater. Now women can and should go out and take advantage of them.”
One way that Ellen explores and learns new things is by jumping in and listening to a GetSetUp class.
“GetSetUp is the best from what I can see to jump in and listen to a class. On some other sites, you have to go through a super maze to watch a class, but with GetSetUp it’s almost instant gratification.”
Classes are often free to the end-users thanks to partnerships with their local area agencies on aging, health plans, or other organizations. Plus all the instructors are 50+ so the organization is peer-to-peer learning while empowering other older adults to share their knowledge.
Ellen learned what not to do from poor examples in her family on maintaining health and wellness as one ages. She watched her older relatives get sick and die due to a lack of taking care of their own health and wellness through healthy eating and fitness. So she focused on doing the exact opposite.
After an 18-year career in TV news and another 20 years in media consulting, Ellen knew that life is what you make of it, so she started running toward health. She’s been running since she was 28 and since 2006 she’s placed in 252 events in her age group on an entirely vegan diet. She’s really focused on her health and helping others to stay healthy as well which is why she wrote Eat Vegan on $4.00 a Day. She’s a firm believer that her vegan and active lifestyle have helped her to be one of the only adult female members of her mother’s family to not have had breast cancer.
“I’m not competitive. That’s not why I run. I run because my parents were so sick and diseased they couldn't lift my kids, let alone babysit. Entire generations miss each other without even knowing it. I want to be there for my grandchildren if I have some.”
Plus Ellen finds that running brings community. It’s events that groups of people can do together and can meet people. Ellen started running again when she moved to Florida and was helping with a cross-country girls team to support them coming to run.
“One of the biggest thrills was to run a 5k with two of my daughters and their significant others. We all placed in our respective age groups. To be able to share that was just a treat.”
Now Ellen pays close attention to her health and wellness to make sure she can celebrate all the exciting things she still wants to participate in.
“In running, I have to think how far can I push the limit - how much faster can I go without tearing something like a hamstring. My goal is to finish without injury. I want to be doing this when I'm 100.”
Ellen considers herself a running addict. If she goes without running for more than a few days she gets cranky she says. However, she also knows that it’s important to let her body recover.
“Sometimes I know I have to take a long break because my body needs to recover. It’s important to be in tune with your body as you age. This thankfully improves with age. Plus from an athletic standpoint, a vegan diet is anti-inflammatory so this helps me.”
With age, she’s learned some tricks of the trade for sports. She and her doctor realized that a popsicle stick in her insole works perfectly for her feet as she waits for a customized insole to run with. While a popsicle stick might not work for everyone, Ellen is open to unique solutions to aging well. That’s part of the reason she enjoys participating in research studies and surveys on medical health, especially those the senior games put out yearly. She feels learning from healthy aging athletes is a great way for others to be inspired.
She personally finds motivation from a desire to be around for future grandchildren and by living similar to people in the Blue Zones who are notorious for having long lives.
She firmly believes that there are a couple of key things essential to staying motivated to live your best life:
“Some people think that when you retire it’s a time when people sort of give up and think life is over. I want to show it can be the beginning of a time for lots of interesting things!”
For those interested in getting started with running, she recommends that people find a local running club.
“Don’t be intimated by these clubs, there’s almost always someone there to run with slower or walking paces.”
She believes starting with a sport is a great way to find community. She suggests not jumping in too fast or you might get the terrible twos - “too much too soon.” So starting with a beginner or intermediate group is a good way to get your feet wet if you’re not already advanced.
“People ask why I am doing this. I feel I’m working for elder people to be respected and remind them that they are relevant and can stay relevant. It’s all about choices.”
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