This morning when I got to the gym, my usual treadmill was taken by an older man who was walking slowly while chatting with the elderly man next to him. The two seemed as though this was a normal part of their routine; but I found it strange that I had not seen either of them until today. I chose another treadmill behind them but found myself watching these two men. Slowly, other members of the gym approached the men and engaged in small talk. Before long, the entire row of folks on the treadmills in front of me were talking and cutting up with one another.

I watched in amazement as not one of them watched TV, checked their cell phones or listened to headphones. They would sometimes stop, get off the machine, walk down a few feet and talk to others about their families and such. This seemed to be a social gathering for them. The other thing I noticed was the sheer amount of happiness and fun it appeared that they were having. All of them wore smiles and at times laughed loudly. Clearly, these folks were all retired and this was part of their daily social outing.

Why had I not noticed them until today?

As I watched these seniors laughing and playing, I began to notice those around them that were decades younger. Most of them were checking their cell phones; or listening to something on their headphones. A couple were either working or reading on electronic devices. Their faces were much more serious, more focused, less joyful. Now, I have had a lot of training on generational differences; but this was the first time that I actually saw such a glaring example of it.

The idea of completely disengaging from others and focusing on something like a cell phone or computer looked rather boring in this setting. Clearly, this group was there to socialize but they were also getting in a bit of healthy activity.

I wonder what effect beginning each day like this has on people.

Are they more positive as they go about the rest of the day? Are they happier? Do they feel more connected, less stressed, more value? What could I learn from this about myself? Is it possible that I have not noticed them until today because I too, have been too focused on things that really don’t matter?

As I left the gym today, I found myself laughing at some of the jokes I heard them tell and about the jabs they threw at each other about being old or being able to out-run one another. I found myself wanting to go back tomorrow and engage in conversation with them. I felt a tinge of jealousy that I wasn’t a part of the cool, fun crowd…the senior crowd in this case.