News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 26, 2011

MAUREEN HAYDEN: ‘Go-goers’ set up to fight transition into the ‘slow-go’ group

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was working at home on a recent Friday when I reached him to talk about the 2010 Census and the numbers that show how Indiana has changed over the past decade.

At 62, the governor is in the state’s fasting growing age cohort: the so-called Baby Boomers born between 1945 to 1965. Well-educated, well-traveled, and well-moneyed, it’s guys like him who are changing the image of what it means to be “senior citizen.” 

While he’s been eligible for membership in the AARP for seven years (when he turned 55), and close to the traditional retirement age of 65, it’s hard to envision the man taking advantage of “early bird” restaurant specials for elderly eaters or playing gin rummy at the local senior citizens center.

The motorcycle-riding Daniels is a fitness buff. The last serious injury he sustained was when someone inadvertently opened a door in his face, hitting the governor hard enough that he needed stitches in his forehead. Daniels had just finished working out at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports, a behemoth of a gym near the Indiana Statehouse, when the injury occurred.

When I was talking to the governor about the 2010 Census numbers, I didn’t ask him how he’d spent the earlier part of his morning. But I doubt if he’d been sitting in his robe and slippers, whiling away the hours.

Daniels and his wife, Cheri — who swears by her 10-miles-a-day walk for heart health, are part of what Noble Stallons, the former chairman of the Indiana Commission on Aging, call the “go-go” group of the post-60 group of Americans who are changing expectations amount what it means to age.

Borrowing from financial planner and author Michael Stein who came up with the categories to describe how to plan for retirement, Stallons said the “go-goers” have good enough health and at least at little bit of wealth to keep working or playing with not much concession to age. There’s also the “slow go” group that Stallons said he’s recently shifted into, at the age of 76, after spending much of his retirement years as a go-goer.

My 84-year-old mother, who gave birth to 10 children and until recently worked the front 20 acres on the family farm I grew up on, has been a go-goer all of her life. She slid unwillingly into the slow-go group after some injuries and ill health. She’s fighting the move into the “no go” group — people who are sedentary often due to factors beyond their control, like the death of a spouse or physical or mental limitations.

As Indiana ages, like much of the rest of nation, there’s more go-goers, slow-goers, and no-goers among us, and more on the way. What that means for Hoosier communities is part of what the CNHI Indiana newspapers will explore in its “Census 2010: Change in Indiana” series that will run in many of those newspapers over the July 4 weekend.

Maureen Hayden is Statehouse bureau chief for CNHI Indiana newspapers. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

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