The Buffalo Soldiers Are Blazing Their Own Trail in Retirement

Family is everything. Whether that family comes to you by blood, through old friendships, or in the form of new people, having a close circle to lean on can help you live your best life in retirement.

Take 79-year-old John "Silk" Haynes. After 37 years of working for the U.S. Customs Service, he found his second family in the Buffalo Soldiers, a motorcycle club that values comradery, community, and charity.

"We're a big family who look out for each other. Even when we're off bikes. If someone's experiencing an illness in their family — or celebrating marriage — we all get together and support that person," says Silk. "I feel good that they have my back, no matter what the situation is. We laugh and joke. We poke at each other. We just have fun with it."

The club's history runs deep. And riding is a lifestyle. With over 25 members in the Boston chapter, the Buffalo Soldiers enjoy riding locally and also taking trips across the country.

Fifty-three-year-old Michael "Eclipse" Wilson, another member of the Buffalo Soldiers, describes the closeness of the group: "This is my family. I've had more fun in my 25 years of riding. I've gone places and done things outside of myself that I probably would have never done before," he says.


Staying socially active in retirement

Getting older comes with changing relationships. And retirement brings changing routines. It's important to have a solid support system and hobbies to keep you socially active and engaged.

The Buffalo Soldiers not only ride together, but also get together for dances, fundraisers, other social events in the off-season.

"I feel great when the social events come up and I'm able to go and participate, especially dancing and laughing and joking and eating," says Silk. "You've got to have community. You need people to talk to."

Having this tight-knit group of women and men has greatly contributed to the happiness of many of the members. Volunteering is another way they stay involved and active in their community. They're dedicated to raising funds and awareness for the SPARK Center.

"It feels amazing just to know that you're doing something good for somebody else. It's not what you add to yourself, but what you add to others," says Eclipse.

Doing good deeds for others can provide a big boost in your mood. It can also help keep your mind sharp and improve your social well-being.

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Focused on physical and mental health

In addition to being active members of their community, many of the Buffalo Soldiers stay active both physically and mentally as well. Silk is an avid gym-goer, enjoys taking walks, and attends Zumba and chair yoga classes.

"I like to dance, so I do Zumba twice a week. I also take a chair yoga class. It stretches the muscles in your body and has worked wonders for me. It takes away a lot of the aches and pains," says Silk.

It's recommended that people aged 65 and older get about 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise (like brisk walking) each day. It's important to keep your brain active, too. Exercising your mind can help slow down the progress of memory problems.

Silk does this by doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku, and he is also currently learning Spanish. "I've got to keep it moving. I want to stay here as long as possible."

With his own retirement right around the corner, Eclipse is focused on his health as well.

"If you don't have your health, you don't have anything. So I pray to be healthy and to be able to chase that dream that I always wanted to do, which is just to be that cowboy I was always wanting to be."

When it comes to finding your purpose in retirement, the Buffalo Soldiers are a shining example of how staying connected to your community can help keep you on track in this crazy ride called life.

Speak to a licensed Aetna representative about Medicare
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