At 91 years old, Leurene Hildenbrand is an active participant in pickleball, playing an amazing four times a week. Her teammates admire her remarkable athleticism and find it hard to believe she only began exercising in her mid-50s.
An Inspiration To Those Around Her
Leurene dedicates three days to playing with adults and reserves another day to teach pickleball to children aged 11 to 18. Her commitment to fitness and late start serves as an inspiration to those around her.
“A lot of people come to me and say, ‘You must have been doing this all of your life,'” Hildenbrand told insider.com. “And I say, ‘No, I started when I retired.’ I kind of pour my heart into it. I’m very competitive, and I love learning.”
After a dedicated career as a research scientist at Goodyear, Leurene Hildenbrand received an early retirement offer at age 55. With newfound time on her hands, she embarked on a quest to fill her days meaningfully.
The National Senior Games
It started with table tennis sessions with her husband and his colleagues, where she learned about the National Senior Games – an inclusive competition for individuals aged 50 and above, encompassing various sports such as tennis, swimming, and 5K runs. Pickleball has been a part of the games since 2003.
Having grown up during a time when women were discouraged from participating in sports, Hildenbrand fully embraced her newfound freedom and engaged in a wide array of activities. From pickleball and bocce to cycling, rollerblading, and running, she eagerly pursued multiple sports, defying age-related expectations.
Leurene Hildenbrand, at 88, decided it was time to get young people involved in a sport she had come to love – pickleball! https://t.co/wJSW4CHemy#MeetTheAmazings #longevity pic.twitter.com/TIvX7OgbdR— Dr. Noelle Nelson (@DrNoelleNelson) May 10, 2023
Despite being a nonagenarian, Hildenbrand maintains an active lifestyle, skillfully balancing her passion for sports with the responsibilities of tending to her 24-acre property in Ohio. From maintaining the house and mowing the lawn to plowing snow and even cutting down trees with the wood saw gifted to her by her son on her 88th birthday, she remains remarkably self-sufficient.
Leurene was also named a “Humana Game Changer” after playing pickleball in the Florida Senior Games back in 2017.
Dedication To Exercise The Key To Longevity
Hildenbrand’s dedication to exercise is the key to her longevity. Scientific evidence supports the notion that regular physical activity helps prevent chronic diseases, preserves cognitive function, and contributes to overall longevity.
Even during the summer months when she retreats to her vacation home in Florida, Hildenbrand continues to prioritize exercise. She takes a break from her usual chores but remains active by teaching three aerobic exercise classes weekly, ensuring that her days are infused with movement and vitality.
“I play a lot of pickleball inside and outside” in Florida, too, she said. “So both places, up in Ohio and down there, I’m very, very busy.”
A Close Call During A Pickleball Tournament
Beginning her day with the news, oatmeal, and a cup of coffee, Hildenbrand exemplifies the traits of an early riser, consistently waking up at 6:30 a.m., regardless of her bedtime. She attributes her enduring energy to her upbringing on a farm, where she cared for animals before dashing off to school.
She also highlights the importance of keeping hydrated throughout the day, recalling a close call during a scorching pickleball tournament last year. Her partner came to her aid swiftly with water and a damp towel, enabling her to recover quickly and resume the competition after a brief rest.
Since that incident, water has become a staple of her daily routine.
Teaching Pickleball And Felling Trees!
With her schedule filled with activities like teaching pickleball and felling trees, Hildenbrand’s daily responsibilities can accumulate. Consequently, she often turns in around 11:30 or midnight, occasionally treating herself to a serving of mint chocolate chip or moose tracks ice cream before calling it a night.
“I always have six to eight different half gallons in my freezer,” she said. “People laugh about that, but it’s true.”
Hildenbrand has been a widow since 2012, but she says her social life is just as active as she is.
“I have lots of friends all over the country,” she said. “We play games. We play pickleball. I have friends in every sport that I play in, in everything that I do.”
In addition to exercising, research supports the notion that maintaining strong social connections is a science-backed approach to healthier aging. Studies indicate that seniors who cultivate robust relationships with family and friends are more likely to retain mental sharpness and overall well-being.
Leurene Hildenbrand, recognizing the benefits she has experienced firsthand, aims to inspire other seniors to engage in sports. Despite not attributing her longevity to special genetics, as her younger and older siblings have passed away, she credits her active lifestyle for enabling her to lead a long and fulfilling life.
The element of competition adds an extra layer of enjoyment to her journey, motivating her to continue participating in pickleball and embracing the vitality it brings.
“You get the exercise as well as enjoyment of playing the game, and you want to excel in it even more,” she said. “And then you don’t even realize you are getting better in health.”
Check out our story about Erik Lange, who recently quit his corporate gig to become a full-time pickleball pro.
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