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Life Arts    H3'ed 4/19/10

Bonnie Buol, Mountain Hiking Senior

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My guest today is Bonnie Buol. She is leaving for a mountain hiking trip in Taiwan in a few weeks. Welcome to OpEdNews, Bonnie. I'd venture to say that it's an unusual vacation choice for typical AARP members. How long have you been mountain hiking and how did you get started?

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I started mountain hiking when I was 29 years old and worked in Hong Kong. I am a physical therapist with a major interest in traveling. After I graduated from the University of Wisconsin I worked first in New Orleans, then San Francisco, and then Chicago. A benefit of my position in Chicago was free evening courses at the university so I began to study Chinese history and culture. The logical next step was to go where the Chinese are. I was able to obtain a position in Hong Kong. A British friend introduced me to mountain hiking in the New Territories there. At first I thought that it was good enough to climb high enough to get a good view but soon I agreed with my friend that reaching the peak was the appropriate goal. Two years later we both returned to our respective countries. The first ten years we planned annual mountain hiking vacations in the U.S. or in Europe. Then my British friend had to stop due to knee problems. I did not do mountain hiking vacations again until last year.

In 2003, I began doing some volunteer work in Taiwan. I met Meijen, a young occupational therapist, who has become a wonderful friend. Now I travel there every year to visit and travel. Last year we hiked in the Hehuanshan Mountains which are 11,000 feet high. This year we will climb Yushan, the highest mountain in Taiwan, which is 13,000 feet. This will be a two day trip. The first day we will climb to within two hours of the peak. We will stay overnight at a hut. The next morning we will rise very early to reach the peak in time to see the sunrise and then descend the mountain. This will be the first time that I have been required to have a permit and a guide. It will also be the first time that I will need to carry a backpack with a sleeping bag and all my food and water for two days. My prior mountain hiking has been day trips, hiking all day but returning to a lodge in the evening for a warm bath, delicious meal, and comfortable bed. I have waited until age 72 to do my most rigorous climb! I think that I am fit and trained enough to do it. I am excited. I cannot wait until May 17.

Oh, my gosh; you're 72! That's fabulous! I don't hang out in mountain hiking circles so I don't know: is it unusual for someone your age to be doing these challenging hikes? And what do you do to train, keep in shape between trips? Tell us everything!

I am sure that there are others my age who are doing challenging hikes but I don't see them. Many seniors are very active these days. I am sure that there are others out there hiking too. My hiking group is quite young, however. Meijen is 41 years old. My hiking group is Meijen and her colleagues.

When I retired in 2000, I established a program that I call my investment in my health.

It starts with a healthy, low fat diet and strict weight control. Six days per week I do an exercise program that includes both cardiovascular conditioning and strengthening. I work on my stepper for 20 minutes and on my treadmill for 40 minutes. Since I have a stepper, treadmill, and stationary bike in my apartment, Chicago weather does not prevent me from performing my program. This basic routine keeps me in condition for doing all but the most strenuous activities.

When I am going to go on a mountain hiking trip, I add stair climbing and raise the incline on my treadmill as additional exercise stimuli. I live in a 38-story condominium so finding practice stairs is no problem. Since this time I must carry a backpack weighing about 20 pounds, I am wearing a 20 pound back pack when I do the stairs and treadmill.

If there was mountainous terrain in the area, I would hike increasingly long and difficult trails but there are none near Chicago. In May I usually join Bike The Drive which is a fantastic 36-mile ride along Lake Shore Drive. In preparation for that, I add 30 minutes on the stationary bike each day and ride progressively longer distances on the bike trails.

It's a good thing I did my water aerobics class today. Otherwise, I'd feel like a slacker. (Actually, listening to you, I still feel like a slacker.) Did you ever imagine at 29 that you would still be doing this so many years later?

Aquatics programs are excellent but I am not a water person. Actually, I did resolve when I was in my 20s to try to be as physically active as possible and travel as much as possible for as long as possible in my life. As a young physical therapist, I treated many people in their 60s who had suffered devastating strokes and would have residual mobility and personal care issues the rest of their lives. They told me about their dreams of traveling AFTER THEY RETIRED. Now they had the time and the money to travel but limited physical ability to realize or enjoy their dream vacations. I started to work/travel as soon as I graduated from the university. In middle years, I did see the need to do some career building but resumed traveling and sports activities full speed ahead as soon as I retired. I feel blessed to have been given both the physical ability and the opportunities to continue realizing my dreams.

If it's not too personal to ask, do you still have all your original parts?

Yes, I still have all of my original parts except for fillings and crowns in my mouth.

The kind of spare part that I might need in the future is not currently available.

My eyes have always been my biggest physical problem. I was born with amblyopia or "lazy eye", affecting my right eye. I have very little visual acuity in that eye, mostly only peripheral vision. I have worn glasses since I was about 2 years old. In 1997 I had a posterior vitreous detachment or PVD in my left eye. This resolved itself without surgery. Two years later I had a retinal tear in my right eye which required laser surgery. In 2007 I was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration or AMD. Fortunately, I have the dry type instead of the wet type so it usually progresses more slowly. The only treatment which MAY help is the AREDS formula of antioxidant vitamins plus zinc.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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