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Successful Agers in Action: Nancy Martin


At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked members of our community to share with us their ways of finding solace during this difficult time. This week we have the pleasure to share an inspiring story of Nancy Martin, an athlete, author, and activist. 

Nancy Martin turned 80 in November, and until the gym closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, she played paddleball three times a week. It's a rigorous sport played in the racquetball court mostly by men. There are a few women in paddleball, and Nancy is the oldest woman in the world competing in the game. 

When the gyms closed in March to help stop the spread of the virus, Nancy started walking the hills near UC San Diego four days a week and jitterbugging at home three days a week for 30 minutes without pause. "My goal was to maintain my footwork; however, responding to the pandemic stressors with fast dancing, by myself, while listening to 50's rock music, contributed to a sense of well-being and allowed me to thrive during this shelter-in-place," she said. 

While the coronavirus has caused a lot of fear and suffering around the world, it has also forced many of us to slow down and find a measure of peace. Nancy, an author, and retired university Literature and Writing instructor, found her solace in revisiting the unpublished memoir she wrote in 1980 when she was a single parent with four children. "We had very little income, and I only had three months to write it before I went back to graduate school at UC San Diego," she said. She had an agent interested in her work but never found the time to edit the book as life and necessity intervened. "The pandemic has offered me the opportunity to revisit my 300 pages and finally create a work I'm proud of; however, there is a time constraint to my writing once more. As a senior, I don't have all the time in the world; so I'm grabbing this moment to finally put my words to paper, if not for publication, at least for my grandchildren."

One of the topics that Nancy tackles in the memoir is the issue of loneliness that many of us are experiencing during the pandemic in a way we never have before. "At the age of 30, I lived with five people and felt lonely," said Nancy. This experience prompted her journey to self-exploration and practicing wisdom and self-acceptance.

At that time, she also found the courage to divorce her first husband, drive with her children from Seattle, WA to San Diego, and start a new life on her own. "I can point to many aspects of my life that helped me see and experience the ecstasy of life on a daily basis, but my children have always been the why for me."

Today she lives with her husband of 35 years in La Jolla, CA. She finds joy in staying in touch with her children and grandchildren, and her large circle of intergenerational friends. An accomplished athlete (she competed in racquetball for 35 years before switching to paddleball), Nancy has hiked all over the world and plans to take another hiking trip when the pandemic is over. 

A lifelong activist, Nancy is currently chairperson of the Architectural Committee in her HOA. "I became an activist to confront harassment as well as all the other isms in today's climate." Ageism is one of these "isms" Nancy challenges. "It's a joy to empower one's voice at any age."