Focusing on Yourself First

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When We Take Steps To Make Ourselves Better, The Ripples Extend To Others

For Eddie Elliott, the road to the 2022 National Senior Games in Ft. Lauderdale was proof of his comeback. In 2018 Elliott qualified for the 2019 Albuquerque games, but the table tennis competitor ended up having both hips replaced that year. Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit. With nothing else to do, Elliott started walking. And walking. Eventually Elliott was averaging 35,000 steps a day, lost 80 pounds, and was moving better than ever.

Elliott played table tennis in college but hadn’t played for years before beginning again when he moved to Winston- Salem, NC. He found camaraderie and friendship in playing at a local rec center and was re-energized by the sport.

“It forces you to maintain your agility,” noted Elliott. “You have to be able to make decisions quickly because the ball’s coming at you at the equivalent of about a 140-mile-an-hour fastball from a pitcher. So, you have less than a very small fraction of a second to decide how you want to hit it. Plus, you have to calculate the spin that’s on the ball, where it’s going to end up. You’ve got to time your racket, so it meets the ball when it gets there. It really forces you to concentrate, which is good for us older people.”

One of the benefits of the National Senior Games is the opportunity to meet new people, either as a competitor or even a partner. For team sports, the Games offers a Team Partner Finder — an online portal to connect with athletes.

“I have one partner that’s coming from Hawaii,” said Elliott. “I’ll meet her this afternoon for the first time at 2:30.

She’s lefthanded. Based on her description, she’s at about my level, so maybe we’ll be compatible.”

“The guy that I’m playing with is from Alabama, as best I remember. He’s supposed to be in late this afternoon. So, not only do you meet people at your local games and your state games, but you meet people nationally, too. I’ve already run into several people that I never knew before, or wouldn’t know if it wasn’t for this.”

Even without earning any ribbons or medals, the 11-hour drive from Winston-Salem to Ft. Lauderdale was worth it to Elliott, to play a sport he loves, meet new people and take some much needed time for himself. The 68-year-old Elliott is the primary caregiver for his elderly mother, who suffers from dementia.

“I had to make special arrangements to come this week, but it’s probably the only time I’ll have. Her family seems to live a long time,” Elliott explained. “Based on her sister, she’s got six or seven more years of life. So, it’ll probably be a while before I can make it back down here and I wanted a chance to do this.”

“As a caregiver, you can’t forget about yourself. Your primary focus is the person you’re taking care of,” said Elliott. “You can’t take care of the person if you don’t take care of yourself. If I hadn’t lost the weight and gotten my hips replaced, I wouldn’t be able to take care of my mom. She does need lifting and help maneuvering, and with my hips I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

This article is featured in the September 2022 issue of The Growing Bolder Digital Digest.

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