Fifty-plussers: Fit to Work

“1-2-3, lift!”

Directly across from the 19-year-old young man, bent at my knees and using proper body mechanics, I lifted my side of the heavy wooden pallet.

I’ve survived 20-plus years of certified nursing assistant (CNA) work with no back/knee issues lifting, transferring and moving heavy patients either with a two-person lift or alone, so I’m no stranger to proper body mechanics.

We straightened our bodies, took two steps over, and bent our knees again to lower the pallet onto the floor.

I stood, confidant and grateful that I was physically healthy enough to perform this and the other physically demanding responsibilities as a 57-year-old Level one Fulfillment Associate in Amazon’s busy sort center warehouse.

But truth be told, I was also surprised that at this stage in my life, I was willing to push my body at a pace even beyond the physical/mental exertion of my CNA positions in hospitals and nursing homes.

Apparently though, I’m not alone.

I’M NOT THE ONLY 50-PLUSSER WOMAN WORKING IT

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in the next few years not only will the workforce population include “about 41 million people who will be ages 55 and older,” but the BLS projection is that 13 million of those people will be “65 and older.”

At the Amazon training session, more than a handful of us 40- and 50-plus women stepped up to lift, sort, scan, and transport boxes as well as move heavy pallets alongside the younger generations without thinking about it twice.  Not having our ages discriminate us from a job opportunity is a level of gratitude I’m sure we all shared.

Photo booth fun on first day of work. 🙂

But can a 50-plus-year-old woman’s body withstand the rigors of a job that requires hours of on-your-feet-stamina and strength – characteristics that men used to dominate?

DAILY PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: A MAJOR PLUS

Had I worked a sit-down job for most of my life like one of my Amazon coworkers, my answer would be a big fat NO! Twenty-five years younger than me and questioning her ability to handle being on her feet a whole shift, she was willing to try. If that were me – at THIS age? – I’d be praying for the work gods to lead me in another direction.

But for many 50-plus women these days, a new and improved focus on daily physical activity, whether it’s running, weightlifting, yoga, or walking, has dispelled the unwritten rule that getting older means sitting and watching our muscles turn to mush.

We are embracing our physical health with a whole new passion – shamelessly flaunting our abilities to keep our muscles strong.

In my case, that means more opportunities to pay my bills, while I write (God willing) to independence from the employee world – a major plus but not the only one.

THE BENEFITS OF A FIT-FOCUSED LIFESTYLE

If the BLS is right – that the workplace will be filled with those of us either not wanting to retire, or not in the position to retire – we need to be ready. Developing and maintaining good physical, nutritional, and emotional health habits mean:

  • We’re physically able: Injuries for a 50-plusser in the workforce can mean a longer and more serious recovery time if muscles that haven’t been used in quite a while are forced to wake up and work. Start now! Check with your doctor and get moving. Schedule daily exercise just like you schedule an appointment.
  • We’re energized!: As a CNA working 12-hour shifts, and as a  runner, my energy has thrived on energizing foods in my plant-based diet. These foods include proteins, foods high in fiber, and/or complex carbs:  bananas, flax seeds, salmon, tuna, apples, quinoa, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and more.
  • We’re mentally prepared: Exercising daily is not just about losing weight; nor does exercise mean training for a triathlon – far from it. Going for a leisurely run helps me think and calms my mind when I’m overthinking life. Yoga moves, or just moving your body with no agenda and breathing deeply releases stress and offers a sense of peace.

These are just a few benefits; I’m sure you can find more of your own.

The bottom line is that our good health gives us options to keep having adventures – work or leisure.

As a writer, I’m grateful for that.

I welcome your thoughts!

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