I was never a great athlete, but I grew up across the street from the University of Michigan athletic fields and the baseball diamond. I used to go watch games when I was a kid and was a bat boy for a while. In that experience, I was able to become friends with the players and coaches, and the love of baseball stuck with me for the rest of my life. However, I never thought playing would ever be central to what I did.

There was a softball diamond not far from where I lived in my early 50s. One day as I was walking by, I noticed two teams of really old guys playing slow-pitch softball VERY well. Apparently, this league has been around for almost 100 years, and you must be 75 years old to try out for it.  In that moment, I said to myself, “I’m not good enough to play with these guys now, even though I’m a lot younger, but I have a good reason to want to be around until I’m 75.  Maybe I can get good enough to play by then.”

Years later, I noticed another group of guys playing on the diamond. They were in uniform, so it was formal play, but they weren’t 75; they were my age and older, and they were playing fast-pitch softball. I remember looking through the fence and thinking, “Man, I really have to try that.” I spent a few weeks running and trying to throw and hit balls on my own until I could work up the courage to ask how to join.  I passed the tryout, was put on probation for a year, and played with the club three days a week for over a decade. Many became lifelong friends.

Now I am 70. Age is taking its toll on many of us, but we are fully aware we are aging better than our peers who have been less active. More importantly, we are all able to be there for our fellow club members as their playing days come to an end.

I recently asked myself, “I wonder how many people are engaged in enjoyable activities with their friends three days a week? More importantly, I wonder if they realize how many other great things come along with belonging to a group that is so engaged with each other.