I've reached the age where I'm receiving newsletters and advertisements for retirement, long term health care and life insurance. A recent newsletter contained a statistic that stopped me in my tracks:
70% of the US population will need some kind of chronic illness care by the time they are 65 years old.
Holy crap! 70% By 65! So, obviously I'm asking myself if Doug and I are going to be in the 30% or 70%?
You'd think that by sailing a Laser, we'd have a really decent shot at being in the 30%. After all, it's like owning your own personal gym. A day of racing is like doing a strength, endurance and flexibility workout all at the same time. But on top of that, you get this amazing cerebral workout as well. The Laser is even better than having a personal trainer because it can reward and thrill you about a workout in a way that no trainer could but it will also punish and motivate you for not staying in shape. How could being a Laser sailor not land you in the 30%?
Doug is US Sailing's Area F Coordinator for the Singlehanded Championship. And since Doug enjoys paperwork as much as he enjoys watching sailing from shore with a blindfold on, this organizational task has fallen to me. So, I started doing some research to find out what kind of Laser activity we have in Area F. Area F is the largest sailing area in the US and encompasses all or part of 4 Laser Districts. Participation, although up from the last few years, it is way down from earlier years and way down from its potential. I wonder why?
Laser sailing is such excellent insurance for living a long and healthy life. Why are the numbers going down? Why is the obesity rate in the US increasing? Why are so many sailors switching to bigger, less active boats, and why, every year, do these sailors look bigger and less healthy than they were the year before? If you only gain 3 pounds a year, in 5 years you will be 15 pounds overweight. Why choose a lifestyle (and boat) that will likely land you in the 70%? I don't get it.
The change in Laser sailing activity among the Masters in Laser District 15 sort of loosely looks a little like the 70% / 30% thing going on with health in the US. If you look at the number of Laser Masters who are still actively sailing and compare it to the same group's participation numbers of 10 years ago, the shocking 70% by 65 statistic starts to look uncomfortably realistic. The real kicker is that it may very well be your choice on whether you land in the 70% or 30%. Chronic illness care or Laser sailing? Hmmm.
Unfortunately, there are those Laser sailors that find themselves in the 70%. Did they not sail enough? Was it just plain old genetics? Do they feel cheated? Or are they grateful for the memories? Doug recently talked with an old Laser sailing friend in his 80s who is suffering from Alzheimer's. He remembered Doug when they spoke and told him he'd been out sailing his Laser the weekend before. He hadn't. While I'm sure the experience is not much fun for his wife, at least, in his mind, the guy is still enjoying sailing. Even if he doesn't cheat the nursing home, in his mind, he may still die on his Laser. That can't be all bad.