Editor's note: For seniors, exercise is an important way to prevent injury and retain independence. But it can be difficult to come up with a routine that works for you. Frank Hernandez of the Central Valley town of Delano solved that problem by turning to rollerblading. He's now 72 and shows no sign of stopping. We visited the skatepark with Hernandez as part of our community health series Vital Signs.
By Frank Hernandez
When I first started I would rollerblade the skate paths, then I said, "I need more than this."
I used to look at the X-Games, and I saw the rollerbladers back then in the 90’s, and I said, "Oh, I’m going to do that someday."
I've had a lot of falls, a lot of injuries: strained my knee really bad, bruised my rib cage twice, shoulder strain three or four times, face-plant once. But I've never had a broken bone, so I’m pretty lucky. I’m not really stubborn, I just think that if I want to do something I can do it.
I grew up in Delano. My grandmother raised us in the mid-1940s. At that time, we had the west side of town and the east side of town -- the east side of town was the more affluent. I didn’t know whether I was smart enough to go to college, or was I just a dumb kid from the west side?
There’s nothing wrong with being a fieldworker, but I didn’t want to be a fieldworker. I saw some of the people that did field work, and some of them looked like they were very old, but they weren’t.
My wife [and I] think back now and we say, "Gee, what would have happened if we spent our whole life doing that? Do you think that would have affected our health?" I think so.
I was an accountant for 34 years. I was the first Mexican-American accountant for the company.
My last 30 years of work, I worked 50 to 70 hours a week. The stress got to me. The doctor said, your system’s all messed up. You’re working too many hours, number one, and if you work that many hours, then get your heart rate up. Do something to get that blood flowing. From that point on, I made sure I always did a little bit of physical fitness.
When I was 62, I told my company I was going to retire. Six months after I retired, I got the bad news from my doctor. He called me and told me, "Frank, you have cancer." Prostate cancer.
After I had my surgery, the first thing I told my doctor was, "Well, how long before I can rollerblade?"
I’m sure there are other people out there my age that do this. But a lot of people say, "What's going to happen? One day, you’re going to get hurt, and you’re going to be crippled!" But I enjoy skating. It’s something that I like to do. Like I say, it’s a natural high for me.
I would like to continue rollerblading until I’m done. Until I die.
Jeremy Raff reported this story.