Tennis and Your Later Years

Published in Pawtucket Times, July 25, 2014

Like bacon and eggs, AARP Rhode Island hopes to make tennis synonymous with AARP’s Life Reimagined initiative.  On Friday, July 11, Rhode Island’s largest aging advocacy group firmly tied its national initiative to the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, seeing an immediate opportunity to be associated with one of the world’s most high-profile tennis events, one that matched its age 50 plus membership demographic.  The new relationship provided a unique opportunity for the Providence-based group to get the word out about its legislative advocacy and grassroots community work.

This July, AARP Rhode Island unveiled its sponsorship with the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships which drew 22,500 tennis fans from across the country to the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, Rhode Island.  A live telecast of the tennis matches and the tennis organization’s Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony, which honors the best of  the tennis world, was beamed to millions around the tennis world on The Tennis Channel.  AARP’s sponsorship include center-court signage at 30-second spots on this channel.

“When we heard that tennis is promoted as ‘the sport of a lifetime’ we knew we were on the same wavelength,” noted AARP State Director Kathleen Connell, who stressed “AARP is all about providing resources for a lifetime.”

Anne Marie McLaughlin, Director of Marketing at the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, agrees with Connell’s keen assessment.  “Tennis is very much in sync with AARP’s Life Reimagined program.   Perhaps people are seeking new ways to connect with friends once they’ve  become empty nesters, or a new hobby to keep them active and healthy.  Tennis can provide so many benefits in these areas, and it’s a great activity for people who are looking to reimagine and explore their life.”

“We’re proud to partner with AARP Rhode Island to showcase the game’s many physical, social, and mental benefits to their members,” says McLaughlin who agrees with Connell’s take that tennis is a sport of a lifetime.  “It can be played and enjoyed by a 5-year-old or a 95-year-old and we are very excited to  partner with AARP Rhode Island to engage, and inspire their members,” she says.

“But, Connell warns that “You cannot generalize about the athletic abilities of people over 50, noting that demanding sports such as marathons, and distance swimming attract athletes in their 60s, 70s. 80s. and even older.  Tennis is a great sport for people over 50 because you can play at your own level with players of similar skill.  To live longer and remain healthy we know that being and staying active is critical.  AARP encourages people to find a sport or activity that can provide life-enhancing benefits, both physical and mental,” added the Middletown resident.

Creating New Opportunities in Your Later Years

As a sport, tennis is a great fit for people looking to reimagine their life after 40.  “Whether it’s a job transition, career change, starting a dream business, adapting to being an empty nester or making the switch to a retirement lifestyle, AARP Life Reimagined provides online assessment tools, guidance and resources to help people explore new opportunities, identify adaptable skills and set new goals,” Connell explained.

Connell says Life is the go-to web address for feeling good about aging. “It’s about you and what you want to accomplish,” she says, noting that it helps put AARP’s “Real Possibilities” into action.

According to Connell, AARP is no longer an organization for older people, but one for all people who want the best out of life, regardless of their age.  Many AARP members are still working and do not plan to retire, others leave their jobs seeking new challenges or even establishing new businesses, she explains.

Over a year ago, AARP launched Life Reimaged, a free program designed to help 76 million Boomers easily navigate into new life experiences or reboot their professional lives into different directions.  For the sixties generation, continuing to work a full-time job, or even coasting into retirement is no longer an acceptable option.  But, AARP stressed that reinventing oneself is the way to go in your later stages of life.

The Life Reimaged website provides tools to help you make key decisions for your next direction and detailed resources to guide you through that journey, says Connell.  “Whether your career has hit an unexpected bump in your 50s, or you are looking to start your own business or head down a new path into retirement, AARP can help,” she said.

At the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships

AARP staff and over 50 volunteers were on hand at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships from Monday, July 7 through the tournament finals on Sunday, July 13.  Being stationed at an AARP Life Reimagined booth, these individuals answered questions and distributed copies of AARP Magazine and other materials.  On Friday, July 11, (at AARP Day) Connell announced a new AARP membership benefit — a year-round discounted AARP member rate of $8 (instead of the standard $13 rate) for admission into the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum.  The organization’s museum is open daily and also offers special events including film and music.  Year-round tennis programming, including lessons and group play on the historic green courts are available, too.

Activities for AARP Day included a free 50+ tennis clinic led by legendary tennis coach and newly inducted Hall of Famer, Nick Bollettieri, followed by a book signing and Q&A session (see Bollettieri in action on AARP Rhode Island’s YouTube Channel,  That day, over 70 people attended an-hour long panel discussion in air-conditioned comfort of the Casino Theatre at the Hall of Fame, about AARP’s Life Reimagined initiative.

At the Friday panel, Connell noted that “It was a real treat for fans to get a chance to hear Hall of Famers Nick Bollettieri, 82, (Class of 2014) and Owen Davidson, 71 (Class of 2010) talk about their careers.  AARP volunteer, Charles Dress, 76, of Warwick, also shared his thoughts about how tennis has played an important role in his later years, after retiring from a full-time career,”
said Connell.  The panelist all agreed that tennis was “a natural outlet for the life-long learners who want to work hard at improving their skills and staying mentally sharp.”

Meanwhile, at Friday’s tennis clinic Bollettieri, stressed to those attending, “age is only a number.”  Connell noted that this is in line with the messaging of AARP.  “His enshrinement into the Hall of Fame is fitting not only because of his place as the coach of some many tennis champions, but also because he is a magnificent ambassador for the game.  He inspires people with his energy and enthusiasm.  We were thrilled that he made his way to our tent to join AARP,” she says.

McLaughlin added that Bollettieri is “an amazing example of what Life Reimagined can represent.  At 82 years of age, Nick is still on court 6 days a wee for 10 hours a day…and likely on the golf course the 7th day.  He’s living proof that it’s possible and very positive, for someone to stay physically active in older years.  With this physical activity come great social and mental benefits as well.”

Before the Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony, Bollettieri gave this columnist a few pointers on living life in your later years.  “Stay active and never, never, never, use the word retire,” he says, warning that once the word enters your vocabulary, you begin to decline.

Buying into AARP’s Life Reimagined initiative, Bollettieri advices, “Don’t retire, just change professions.”

Check This Out…

On September 4 and 5, AARP Rhode Island will host two free Life Reimagined “Checkups” at its Providence headquarters.  A Life Reimagined leader will facilitate the three-hour workshop that familiarizes people with the available Life Reimagined tools and resources.  These sessions include small-group exercise for people looking to make changes in their career direction or hoping to reinvent themselves in retirement.  The first session will be in the evening, the second session in the morning.  Register online at or call 401-248-2671.

For more information about the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum go to http://www.tennisfame. com.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.  He can be reached at