len psyk, 66
company man, seattle
Before he stepped onto the StairMaster at the gym, Len Psyk checked the wall chart for the heart rates of people exercising on it. His heart rate was that of a 45-year-old.
“And I actually think I feel that way,” he says, relaying the story to me a week later. “The kinds of things I do are not the kinds of things 66-year-old people do. Not many people are still surfing at 66. Not many people take up calf-roping at 66. Do you put yourself at some risk? Sure. But I’m not ready to sit on the couch and watch ESPN all day long. I have to do stuff that’s active. I have to do stuff that’s challenging.”
The father of six (and grandfather of seven) has spent most of his life chasing around a kid or two, and that has something to do with it, sure. But it’s also a question of mental acuity. He stays sharp at the office of the health care group he’s been working at for four years. The office is a mix of young and old he says, and the balance that needs to be struck between those perspectives requires constant calibration.
“People who have been around longer, what you have to battle a bit is the tendency of people to say, ‘We’ve always done it this way,’ ” he says. “And how do you change that? Very subtly … you need to be listening carefully to what they’re saying.”
The job requires him to be in Seattle, but he splits time between there and Scottsdale, where he and his wife of 44 years, Linda, moved a few years ago. He flies between the two regularly, a sacrifice he’s happy to make despite the occasional delay. Len likes to keep going, something that can be attributed to two massive trials in his life.
The two worst things to ever happen to Len were getting cancer at the age of 53, and losing his job five years ago. The first he beat through good health care and a bit of divine intervention (the family is devoutly Roman Catholic).
The second? By the same graft he’s exhibited since he started working at 14: waking up every day and working his contacts until something came up. Len’s an easy conversationalist and a team-builder by nature. “If I had to choose which I’d do again, I’d rather battle cancer again,” he says.
He felt that he could control his treatment and recovery. In the job market at age 62, he couldn’t control the ageism he faced. Maybe that’s why, after landing in a good place, he’d like to stay there.
“I can’t tell you how many people in my age group, or younger ask me, ‘How many more years are you going to work?’ It makes me crazy, because I don’t know,” he says. “I don’t have a number, or a target. I don’t have a limitation. As long as I’m still healthy enough to do it, I plan to keep working. I love playing golf, I love calf-roping, I love surfing, but I don’t want to do those every day. I’m not ready to hang up my spikes and go into, quote, retirement.”