Growing Older Doesn’t Mean Slowing Down

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Jean Coon of Newport Coast has ran the CdM 5k since 1996, ran the “Across America”‘ program in Portland, Ore., twice, goes to the gym three days a week and walks every single day.

Coon is 88.

“I’ve always been active,” Coon said. “I’m not a person who sits a great deal.”

It’s important to stay active as a person gets older, she said. Senior citizens don’t have to live the sedimentary lifestyle, she added, unless of course a major physical condition or trauma literally make it more difficult or impossible.

Otherwise, there are a lot of things people can do to keep both their body and their minds active.

“There’s no reason, for the most part, you can’t continue what you’ve always done,” she said.

Keeping the mind in shape is just as important, she added.

“You have to stay active physically and mentally… You need to challenge yourself,” Coon said. “You have to have interests, hobbies (to keep your mind active).”

Coon is an avid at rug hooking and also enjoys knitting, reading, getting outdoors and stays active with her church.

“You just have to keep going,” Coon said, “It doesn’t take long to go the other way.”

Also having the right outlook helps, she added, staying positive can make a big difference.

This year, and many past years, she has won first place for her age group at the CdM 5k. She has actually won in her category every year she’s participated except once and another year that she was put of town and didn’t participate.

She has also participated in the Spirit Run, Surf City Run on the Fourth of July and others.

She started running and walking marathons while in Portland when she became a member of Multnomah Athletic Club. The club had a program many years ago called ‘Walk Across America,” Coon said, where members could walk around an indoor or outdoor track enough times so it would equal the distance it would had they actually walked from coast to coast. They would track their miles and map their route from city to city.

“I did that twice,” she said. “It’s about 3,000 (miles).”

Coon grew up and raised her family in the Portland area, she moved to Orange County in 1994.

She roller skated when she was little, she said, and she just gave up her bike a few years ago. Her family had a summer home on a lake in Oregon where they would hike, swim, and water ski.

Marathons, like the CdM 5k, are family events for Coon as well. She and her husband have five daughters and one son. All but one girl either run or walk, she said.

“We’re an active family,” she said. “Always have been.”

She was a homemaker until her kids left home, at which time she opened a children’s clothing store. She didn’t play bridge and she didn’t smoke

“At that period of time so many women smoked and bridge players just smoke up a storm,” she said. “And I really didn’t want to be a part of that. And I didn’t want to sit that much… So I started a business and I loved it.”

Coon ran the business for about eight years before deciding that it was just the right time to retire.

Decisions like selling her business and taking up running marathons have come fairly easy for Coon.

“I give it some thought and if it seems like the right thing to do at the time (I do it),” she said.

Coon’s relaxed and optimistic way of life has helped her continue her running and walking.

There are days when she feel cozy in bed and the skies look gray and there seems to be little motivation to get out and get going, she said.

“But you really get used to doing it, so much so that it becomes such a habit that you just don’t think about (staying in bed), you just do it,” she said.

But she hasn’t had a lot of days like that, she said.

“It’s (become) a way of life,” she said.

After her walk across America treks and her runs in Portland, she became even more inspired by Corona del Mar resident, Eva Parsons, she said. Coon met her several years ago at a CdM Scenic 5k when Parsons was just 95 and still competing in the run. Parsons will be 103 this month, Coon said, and last year was the first time Parsons didn’t participate in the run, and that was because she had an ulcer on her toe.

“She’s been such an inspiration to me,” Coon said. “It’s not just (that she’s) doing that run, she’s staying active.”

Coon started feeling a lot better overall once she started walking every day and lifting weights, she said. She has a lot more strength too, she added.

People are now coming up to her, she said, telling her she’s an inspiration for them to keep going.

“You can’t just sit down or give up,” she said. “People have a sense that old age (means limited activity). ‘I’m getting old, so I can’t do this or that.’ It doesn’t necessarily have to be so.”

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