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Life at 50-plus is better than expected

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Pittsburgh resident Chris Schach, 50, has been a Miami Dolphins fan since he was 9 years old — long before Dan Marino, a fellow Steel City native, began his 17-year stint as quarterback (1983 to 1999). In August of 1991, Schach bought a poster of the Pro Football Hall of Famer that he hung on to for years, hoping to get it signed. It never happened.

AARP The Magazine Editor-in-Chief Nancy Graham with AARP Ambassador Dan Marino

AARP The Magazine editor-in-chief Nancy Graham with AARP ambassador Dan Marino. — Courtesy Nancy Perry Graham

That is until July — two weeks after Schach turned 50 — when he showed up in Pittsburgh at the start of AARP The Magazine's summer road trip, sponsored by Jitterbug by GreatCall and Safe Step Walk-in Tub Co. Marino, now an analyst for CBS's NFL Today and AARP's Men's Life ambassador, joined me for two days on the banks of the Allegheny River. We asked attendees of the annual Three Rivers Regatta a question: Is life after 50 what you expected? Both days, Marino autographed photos and footballs for the first 100 folks who got wristbands — which is how Schach finally got his poster signed.

It was a bittersweet birthday present, following soon after the death of Schach's mother. To his mind, the good luck was no coincidence. "This is Mom's doing," said Schach, who with wife, Michele, 47, has faced "rough times" caring for two sets of parents. "I got a parking space, got in line and got a wristband. Only she could have made it this easy."

The other happy news from our heartland summer road trip — which included stops in Aspen, Des Moines and Minneapolis — is that for most men and women we met, life at 50-plus is better than expected. A remarkably high percentage reported looking good, feeling youthful, working hard, having great sex, traveling, playing with grandkids, volunteering and generally enjoying life in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. There was a sense of optimism: Life is good.

But the best sentiment came from Schach's daughter, Michelina, 9, who said, "When I am 50, I hope to keep up on what I do now, such as reptile/animal loving, amazing art, singing and a lot more — being me." Well, Michelina, from the feedback of folks who are already there, it's a good bet that when you turn 50 you can keep on being you. And totally loving it.

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