‘Hope of Old Men’ Riding High Toward 2012 Games

In 1964, Hiroshi Hoketsu competed in his first Olympic games. Fast forward almost 50 years later—and he may now beat his own previous record as the eldest Japanese Olympian.  The 70-year-old senior qualified for this summer’s London games, and is awaiting formal announcements for the Japanese Equestrian team. Mr. Hoketsu has high hopes he’ll be on the team, showing that his elderly status surely does not deter him from his active lifestyle. He has called himself “the hope of old men.”

Having been an equestrian since he was 12, Mr. Hoketsu has won many Japanese national competitions. He had little ambition in qualifying for the London games as his horse, Whisper, was suffering ill health. But Whisper managed to recover and now with Mr. Hoketsu, the two stand to set another record for elderly athletes.

If he competes, the London games would mark Hoketsu’s third Olympics. The senior’s first Olympic competition was at the age of 23 in Tokyo, and in 2008, he was the oldest athlete at the Beijing games. The record for the oldest Olympian in history however, is held by a Swedish shooter, Oscar Swahn, who competed at age 72 in the 1920s games in Antwerp, Belgium.

And Hoketsu says he’s not going to retire from his sport after the Olympics: “It’s up to fate and fortune. But for now I will keep on riding as long as me and my horse remain fit and fine,” he told the Associated Press.

Engage as You Age congratulates Hiroshi Hoketsu and other senior citizens like him, who keep active and doing what they love. Equestrianism takes much stamina and mental focus, factors which no doubt contributes to Mr. Hoketsu’s healthy life and longevity.   Studies show that mentally stimulating physical activities and socialization improves brain health for the elderly. It also decreases risk for illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Although we may not be Olympians like Mr. Hoketsu, at Engage as You Age, we provide seniors the important cognitive and social engagement needed to live healthier lives. Senior citizens like these give us hope that Alzheimer’s, dementia and other ailments plaguing elders, can be deterred through an active and stimulating life.

To learn more about Mr. Hoketsu and other impressive senior Olympians of the past, see this article from the Guardian.

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