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Living

One Way Boomer Retirees Stay Active: Extreme Sports

Move over golf, and make way for skydiving and skateboarding


Picture retirement. Which activities come to mind? Golf? Backgammon?  Water aerobics? The stereotypes for retirees tend to be the kinds of leisure activities I associate with vacations at all-inclusive resorts.

All that sounds pretty good to me, actually. Given the chance to do water aerobics, I’m the first to jump in. And I could really, really use some time to just sit with my thoughts — whether it’s in a beach chair, a lawn chair or a rocking chair (a symbol of ageism I associate more with tired moms and dads rocking babies than with today’s retiree set).

Out of the 76.4 million boomers, perhaps a smidge over a million are jumping out of, and into, dangerous situations for the sheer thrill of it.

Extreme Sports by the Numbers

But as more boomers enter retirement, they’re replacing that stereotypical vision of post-work leisure with one that often includes extreme sports. A recent Associated Press story claiming that “Baby boomers keep living on the edge” backed it up with stats from a 2015 National Sporting Goods Association study about people between the ages 55 and 74:

  • 698,000 mountain bike off-road
  • 402,000 go open-water scuba diving
  • 155,000  snowboard
  • 49,000 skateboard

Add ’em all up and that’s as many as 1.3 million people doing some pretty crazy stuff.

The story quoted 54-year-old Barbara Odanaka, who started a moms skateboarding group.“We all have that in us, like why shouldn’t we be having fun doing what we love to do?” says the author of children’s books as well as a title called Skateboard Moms. “We’re not just stuck to typical activities, typical behaviors as our parents’ generation was.”

I was feeling pretty good about my yoga practice until I read that. Then I did the math.

Retirees Jumping On the Bandwagon

Out of the 76.4 million boomers, perhaps a smidge over a million are jumping out of, and into, dangerous situations with abandon for the sheer thrill of it. Good for them.

And good for those with the smarts to target that niche. Like the hosts of a radio show called Racing to Retirement, who jumped on the bandwagon — or maybe in this case it’s a flying magic bus — and zeroed in on these extreme retirees with sound advice to save early and save often.

Skydiving isn’t cheap after all.

By Heidi Raschke
Heidi Raschke is a longtime journalist and editor who previously was the Executive Editor of Mpls-St. Paul Magazine and Living and Learning Editor at Next Avenue. Currently, she runs her own content strategy and development consultancy.@heidiraschke
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