Retirees show there's life after 20 through physical fitness efforts

Steve Lamb works out at the fitness center. Mr. Lamb is one of two dozen retirees known as the Q-tip crowd who take advantage of the benefits available to them at the fitness center.

Steve Lamb works out at the fitness center. Mr. Lamb is one of two dozen retirees known as the Q-tip crowd who take advantage of the benefits available to them at the fitness center.

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- The goal of the Air Force fitness program is to motivate all members to participate in a year-round physical conditioning program, emphasizing total fitness to include proper aerobic conditioning, strength and flexibility training and healthy eating.

While the fitness program is geared toward active Airmen, there is a group of retirees here who have taken this goal to heart.

"A couple of months ago I was reading an article on senior fitness and later that day I was walking through the health and fitness center and I noticed several retirees working out or standing around talking to each other; the majority of them had white hair," said Arletta Thompson, fitness program manager. "Jokingly, I told them they looked like a bunch of Q-tips and a couple of the guys liked the name, and it stuck."

There are about two dozen retirees who have dedicated 20 years or more of service in the military and took advantage of staying fit when they were younger. Now several of them have had knee replacements, knee and shoulder surgery, heart replacements and other health issues.

One of the retirees and co-founder of the Q-tip crowd, Jack Prentice, said that since he began working out at the gym, there has always been older people working out on a regularly basis.

"I don't think we were noticed much before because everyone was busy working out, but lately there seems to have been an increase in the older group," Mr. Prentice said. He says they work out a lot but they also do a lot of socializing.

Mrs. Thompson said data shows membership in fitness centers by senior citizens is rising faster than the younger generation.

"This is due to more awareness on the affect exercise and nutrition have on health issues like heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and orthopedic issues," Mrs. Thompson said. "The senior crowd has usually already been diagnosed with some of these conditions or someone very close to them is inflicted with or has died from one or more than one of the conditions."

Most members from the Q-tip crowd work out on the cardio and strength equipment, while others walk the two-mile and quarter-mile tracks. One of the retirees, Mr. James Jones favors the racquetball court. At the age of 68 he challenges both young and old in a friendly but competitive game of racquetball and usually beats whoever he plays.

Author's note: I am half Mr. Jones age and play fairly regularly, but Mr. Jones made me look like a novice in the three matches I played against him.

Mr. Jones and the rest of the Q-tip crowd do not let age and life after 20 in the military slow them down.

Mrs. Thompson said it best, "these guys do this to stay fit, to stay in touch with the military community and for a social connection. When you sit down and talk with them, they are fun, energetic and really are the epitome of fitness. If they represent what the Air Force used to be, it was an awesome force. What a great inspiration to today's Airmen!"