Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

by Jeff Weiss

If you have been following some of my previous blog posts and videos, you know that I recently turned 55 and officially became an Active Aging consumer. If you believe the stereotypes that means that I am stuck in my ways and have little interest in trying new things. Ha! For me, nothing can be farther from the truth!

To celebrate my birthday, my wife and son got me a few gifts to enable me to break some of those stereotypes associated with aging. I loved them all, but my favorite is an experience I’ll be soon enjoying on the coast of Maine. It’s something I have always wanted to do but have never gotten around to it. You guessed it, I am going SKYDIVING!

For most people, the thought of jumping from a plane with only a thin piece of nylon to prevent you from crashing straight to the ground is absolutely terrifying. In fact, most of my friends are doubting I will make it to my 56th birthday!

To calm my friends and colleagues, I decided to check the facts around how dangerous skydiving really is. Here’s what I found:

  • According to the USPA (United States Parachuting Association), approximately 3.3 million jumps were made in 2018 and only 13 people died as a result;
  • The 0.0004% chance of dying from parachuting compares quite favorably to the 0.0167% chance of being killed in a car accident (or in other words, you are 42 times more likely to die in a car accident);
  • Over the past decade, there has been only one fatality per 500,000 tandem jumps (which is what my son and I will be doing);
  • You are more likely to be killed by lightning or from a bee sting.

If I had known these figures and statistics, perhaps I would have tried skydiving years ago. But the reality is, that when I was younger, I didn’t have the money or the nerves to try it. And once I got married and had my son, there was no way my wife would have let me go. But now that my son has left the nest, there’s nothing really holding me back from doing something I have always dreamed of doing (although I am a little suspicious as to why my wife is pushing me so hard to do this now…).

And as an Active Ager, I am not alone in this adventure. Of the approximately 40,000 USPA member-jumpers, almost 40% are 50 or older. Even more interesting is that the #1 occupation for jumpers is “retired” — more than 11% of all skydivers were retired in 2018 (note that the second largest group of jumpers were engineers).

While you could wish me luck in my upcoming jump, I would prefer that you wish me the thrill of a lifetime instead (something I hope for other Active Agers too). And keep an eye out for my next piece (with video!) that will follow up on this highly anticipated experience for me.

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Jeff Weiss
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