Tough Broad: From Boogie Boarding to Wing Walking—How Outdoor Adventure Improves Our Lives as We Age

By Caroline Paul

Reviewed By Victoria Starr Marshall

Book cover for Tough BroadI’m a downhill skier. At 67, I ski stronger and better than at any time in my life. Same goes for my husband, David. He’s 71. We spend a good portion of the winter at our condo in Sun Peaks, British Columbia, and I have to say it’s the best retirement community ever.

Our ski friends range in age from their mid-50s to mid-80s, and from what aging stereotypes would have you believe, none of us act our age. Most days we spend hours playing outside together. Once or twice a week we get together for après ski—enjoying drinks, homemade “appys,” and each other’s company. Several nights a week we gather in one friend’s condo or another taking turns making dinner. We laugh, we cry, and we know we are the luckiest people in the world. It’s not just playing outdoors—the sense of belonging to a community provides tremendous well-being.

My life is tame compared to the adventures of the women Caroline Paul profiles in Tough Broad. But she is very clear that we don’t have to be a skier or engage in an extreme sport to live healthier and feel more alive. We just need to get outside and play, gain community, and seek more from life—not less—as we age.

To do so means discarding that “I’m too old for this” self-talk. Ability, mobility, health status, and how much we practice determine what we can and cannot do, not our number of trips around the sun.

Paul shares her story about wing-walking—the practice and mental and physical workouts she had to do to prepare. But she goes on to tell us that according to researchers from the Memory Care and Aging Institute at UC San Francisco, you can “dispense with the wing entirely and simply walk.”  The catch is to walk while “looking at everything with fresh, childlike eyes.”

Every day I put on my skis I win. But this doesn’t mean I’m inoculated against injury, illness, and loss. I’ve been injured and have lost some of my most active and athletic friends to Alzheimer’s, cancer, and aneurisms. And all of us eventually age-out of this sport. That’s when many decide to trade in their skis for golf clubs in a warmer clime. My time for that will come, too. Not a golfer, I see birdwatching in my future and have already started learning this less-demanding, yet community-engaging, pastime.

In Tough Broad, Paul provides us with stereotype-busting inspiration. “Do everything you can to stay connected,” says author Dr. Louann Brizendine, “It’s not just longevity we are after in the upgrade; it’s joy, emotional strength, and sharpness.” Now, let’s go outside and play.

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