Walter Grabowski doesn't believe in taking it easy. "I am having too good a time," says the 75-year-old former systems analyst. "There's too much to do." His attitude is typical of poll respondents 65 and older, seven in 10 of whom reported being "very satisfied" with how they spend their weekends, making them by far the area's most contented demographic.
When Grabowski retired, back in 1989, he wasn't sure what he was going to do with his newly found free time. As it turned out, he didn't have to worry. These days his calendar is booked with a full slate of community, church and volunteer activities, and he admits to being as busy as ever. And enjoying it.
A lifelong interest in Shakespeare combined with retirement led Grabowski downtown to the Shakespeare Theatre, where he volunteers as an usher at least once a production.
"It's a good way to make sure that I actually get there," says Grabowski, who resides beyond the Beltway in Darnestown, Md. "If it's raining, or there's bad weather, I might be tempted to stay home, but now I have a commitment, a real reason to show up." Grabowski also treks into the city for a regular volunteer stint at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and makes additional weekly trips to Rockville to visit with Humphrey Cissel, an 88-year-old World War II vet, as part of a program whose participants pay visits to the housebound elderly. "I never have trouble finding things to do."
This month Grabowski completed one of his most challenging volunteer projects ever. Since January he has been enrolled in a study conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. For 22 weeks, under doctor supervision, Grabowski agreed to become a vegan, adhering to a strict dietary regime, one that forbade all meat and any food products derived from animals. No exceptions, no cheating.
"It wasn't as hard as it sounds," he assures. Once he got the hang of it, Grabowski swore, he never felt better. "It was one of the most beneficial and exciting things I have done in a long, long time."
Having lost 20 pounds and experiencing a noticeable increase in energy levels, he calls the dietary experiment "mind-blowing" and admits to a special appreciation for the recently released film "Super Size Me."
"I just feel so much better now, I had no idea."
After completing the study, Grabowski is ready to get down to some serious business: exercise. For the next full year, again as a participant in an ongoing study, he has agreed to begin a workout regime. With the help and guidance of a personal trainer, his new goal is to exercise several days a week in a program that combines strength and cardiovascular training.
Grabowski, who describes himself as "pretty active," recently clipped a pedometer to his belt and was pleased to learn that he was already walking about a mile or so a day, "just puttering around," without the benefit of an organized exercise plan. Already imagining the miles he's going to clock, Grabowski is enthusiastic about embarking on this new fitness routine. "It's great to get excited and to look forward to new things."
Could he possibly be having more fun? "Never," Grabowski responds. "I always manage to have a good time."
-- Wendi Kaufman