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Thriving in retirement: Creative ways retirees are staying physically and mentally healthy

They’re living life to the fullest and pursuing their passions, from the golf course to the stage.

At age 70, author and former Wall Street executive Jim Owen found a new passion: fitness.

“I was in terrible shape. I mean awful. Chronic back pain, both knees were shot, no energy, and so on,” Owen says. “That motivated me to become what I call a man on a mission to become as fit as I possibly could.”

Over the next four years, Owen slowly built his strength, focusing on becoming functionally fit — to more easily participate in daily activities like walking on the beach with his wife and picking up groceries. Now 83, a year ago he said, “I’m actually in better shape today than I was when I was 40 or 50.” 

Owen wrote “Just Move! A New Approach to Fitness After 50” and produced a documentary on aging well (that aired on PBS stations) to inspire others to prioritize their health, regardless of their age or fitness experience. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to staying healthy and happy as you age. Many retirees like Owen are finding unique ways to embrace a healthy lifestyle while pursuing new or lifelong passions. 


Working (and playing) in retirement 

Tony Gallardo, 71, spent his career as a real estate broker in Boston. When he retired, he switched course — to the golf course. He’s now a part-time starter ranger at a private golf course in Florida, helping check in players and monitoring the course, something he’s often dreamed of doing as a longtime golfer. 

“I’m outside, outdoors on the golf course. I do get exercise because I have to be able to walk around the golf course and assist the players,” Gallardo says. He also gets exercise through one of the job’s perks: free golf rounds for him, his family, and his friends at the course three or four times a week. “It’s something I look forward to every day,” he says. 

Donna Fields Brown, 72, is also pursuing her passion in retirement. After a 30-year career as an ICU nurse, she and her husband re-formed the hard rock band in which they’d met decades earlier. Their band, Medusa, recorded two albums and toured the country playing shows for several years.

“Here we are in our retirement years, in our mid-60s at the time,” Fields Brown remembers. “We’re hopping in our singer’s RV, and we’re traveling the country, and we’re playing all these different venues and just getting our music adored, having the time of our lives.”

Although Fields Brown and her husband stopped traveling the country at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, they didn’t give up music again. “Although I didn’t want to do nursing, I thought, ‘How can we use our music to help people?’” Fields Brown says. Now, in 2024, they have steady and physically demanding gigs playing music at assisted living facilities. “We’re still playing our music and have gotten even busier! We now play five to six gigs per month and are booked for the entire year!” adds Fields Brown.


Nurturing mental health 

The benefits of these passions and pursuits are not only physical but mental too. Fields Brown says that their gigs require her to constantly learn new songs on the piano and guitar, from Elvis to the Beatles to Jimi Hendrix. 

Additionally, playing for assisted living facility residents has connected them to others, with many people approaching them after their shows to share stories of what the music they played meant to them in their younger days. “It does our hearts good to spread this joy, the joy of playing music, especially for appreciative audiences,” says Fields Brown. “This keeps us alive and engaged.”

Gallardo considers his part-time job at the golf course relaxing and low stress compared to the work he did before retirement.

“Stress is probably a big part of how your health is affected, and so one thing I wanted and knew when I took this position is that this is going to be something that I’ll sleep well with because there’s no stress involved. Whatever you do in retirement, eliminate the stress.” 

Tony Gallardo

And for Owen, his passion for fitness and aging well has had the benefit of helping him and his wife bond and become closer than ever. They work out together several days each week and have fun while doing it. “I want to emphasize how much fun it can be to make this into a hobby,” he says. “We try to push each other in a joking way.” 


Embracing the adventure of aging 

Owen believes that one of the keys to healthy aging is continuing to live life to the fullest. 

“One of the hallmarks of being a superager, I think, is having fun finding that spark,” he says. “Some people think, ‘My life is over; I’m now 80. It’s all downhill.’ Well, it can be. Or you can say, ‘The adventure of life is still an adventure.’”

Fields-Brown sees aging as an evolution rather than a full stop. She shares, “A lot of people think that retirement is just a time of retreating from the world. Oh contrai- re,” she says. “Think of retirement as becoming self-actualized, doing all the things that you never had a chance to do in your younger years when you were working, when you were starting a family. It’s really the time for pursuing your passions and sharing those passions with others.

Tufts Health Plan, a Point32Health company, has Massachusetts-based Medicare Advantage plans to support those who are aging strong. To learn more about your Medicare options, call Tufts Medicare Experts at 1-877-212-9768 or visit – and read on for more stories from Tufts Health Plan.

This content was written by the advertiser and edited by Studio/B to uphold The Boston Globe's content standards. The news and editorial departments of The Boston Globe had no role in its writing, production, or display.