This week, Engage As You Age is blogging about three elderly Olympic athletes, who deserve to be recognized for their athletic achievements. Check back tomorrow for another profile of one of the world’s oldest living Olympians—an 89-year-old track star!
In the glitz and glamour of the 2012 Olympic Games, it’s easy to forget that even in the modern era, Olympic events weren’t always housed in brand new, state of the art facilities.
The world’s oldest Olympic gold medalists have been in the news this week reminiscing about their athletic past during the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles—at the height of the Great Depression.
The oldest living Olympian (an American gold medalist) could not afford to go the Olympic Trials in Chicago. So the people of her hometown—Tustin, California—went door to door and raised $190 for her to drive from southern California to Chicago with her mother and coach in order to compete.
And it was a good thing her community rallied behind her. Because Evelyn Furtsh Ojeda, now 98, broke both the Olympic and the world record while running to victory in 46.9 seconds as part of the women’s 4×100 relay track team.
After taking gold at the Olympics, Ojeda met her husband, Joe, and before she could think about training for the 1936 summer games, they had a baby. Today, she has two children, seven grandchildren and two great-grand children.
Ojeda worked for many years at her husband’s real estate office. But even retirement didn’t slow her down. She has remained active into her old age. When she retired at 80, she took two semesters of golf at Santa Ana College.
“ I had never played golf and I enjoyed that. I was always interested in sports. Now I can still walk. My doctor got me a cane but I’m not using it and as long as my legs hold out I won’t be,” she said in April during an interview with runner/author Gary Cohen.
Ojeda stands out for her Olympian achievements, but today she is like many elderly folk. She lives in Santa Ana, CA, and has chosen aging in place instead of living in an assisted living facility. Even though she lives with her granddaughter, she still gets lonely. She told the man who interviewed her that she gets very few phone calls and so was delighted to receive his call.
“I’ve outlived practically all of my old friends,” she said. “I have one lady friend who is 90 and we get together but all the rest are gone. The sad part of growing very old is that you lose your friends and even some of your younger family members.”
Engage As You Age understands that growing old also often means growing lonely. It’s why we provide social visits to seniors like Ojeda in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our work benefits seniors who choose to age in place and also those who live in assisted living facilities.
Because we know that both parties crave the kind of social interaction they can’t easily obtain–even if they once sprinted to gold.
Check back tomorrow for a profile on an octogenarian Olympic gold medalist!