Why on earth do old people jump out of airplanes anyway?

by Madeleine Kolb

Have you noticed all the stories lately about old people undergoing some trial, a sort of self-imposed hazing to show that they’re Not Over the Hill or that they’ve Still Got What It Takes. The trial needs to be something which

*** seems active and

*** is dangerous but is not extremely likely to kill a person and which

*** most other old people are afraid to do OR feel no need to do to prove anything to anybody OR have way too much sense to do because it may end badly.

What to choose

These days the test many old people select for this purpose is jumping out of an airplane. A well-known example is former U.S. President George H. W. Bush, who celebrated turning 75 and then 80 with a jump. His most recent at 85 was a tandem jump with Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliot of the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights.

Upon landing safely, he uttered these inspiring words,

Just because you’re an old guy, you don’t have to sit around drooling in the corner.

The problem with jumping

***  It’s not active, except in the sense that getting out of the house is active. Gravity does all the work.

*** If you jump in tandem with another person, it doesn’t prove much of anything.

*** It’s dangerous. Equipment may fail, and—since the impact on landing is comparable to that of jumping from the second-story of a building—a skydiver risks breaking an ankle. Or two.

Why not fly the airplane instead of jumping out of it?

I’m all for staying active—physically, mentally, and socially, as I written about again and again. However, I think there are a multitude of options between sitting around drooling in the corner and jumping out of an airplane or engaging in other extreme sports.

One is learning to fly an airplane as I’m doing now.  (Yeah, I’m the one with a big grin shown above.) My instructor is my BF who got his pilot’s license as a teen-ager before he got his license to drive a car.

He wants to teach me to fly, in part, so that I could land his airplane if he were to became suddenly incapacitated. And I want to learn because I love the challenge, and I love seeing mountains and forests and water-bodies from the air. I’d rather fly an airplane any day than jump out of one.

What about you? Do you think that you need to prove anything as you grow older? Do you need to try some extreme sport to show that you’re not over the hill? What does that even mean? I welcome your comments, questions, stories, and courteous rebuttal.

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