John Bennett says he doesnâ€™t belong among Central Connecticutâ€™s 60 Strong Ambassadors.
The Kensington resident considers his health issues just part of normal aging and his active lifestyle, just what heâ€™s always known.
â€śIâ€™m not really sure why I was picked for this,â€ť he says inside the New Britain Museum of American Art, where a crew from Chicago is setting up their camera equipment for a photo shoot.
One of 12 Central CT 60 Strong Ambassadors, the 69-year-old Bennett is serious in nature and only cracks a smile when someone mentions his wife, Karen, their children or grandchildren.
â€śIâ€™m honored; Iâ€™m pleased, but youâ€™re giving me an honor for how Iâ€™ve been my whole life,â€ť says Bennett, a championship-winning wrestler who was recently inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame CT Chapter.
He coached wrestling for many years at area high schools including Newingtonâ€™s, from 2011 to 2016. He was also a four-time member of the U.S. Veterans World Wrestling Team, which he prefers calling â€śthe Mastersâ€ť because heâ€™s not a veteran of any wars, just a veteran wrestler.
Bennett spent a long career in law enforcement, for a state agency he wishes not to name. He was born in New Jersey and moved to Connecticut in the 1970s.
For fun, he volunteers his time as a nutrition consultant and personal trainer for a wide variety of people, from elite athletes to those afflicted with autism, blindness, Parkinsonâ€™s and down syndrome.
He eats a plant-based diet, limits alcohol consumption and exercises on a daily basis.
â€śHealthy habits are good habits,â€ť Bennett says.
This discipline is at least in part due to the example set by his parents.
â€śMy father was a fireman and my mother was a nurse,â€ť he said. â€śI have practiced a healthy lifestyle from day one.â€ť
When he was 4 years old, his father had polio.
â€śThat man never complained his whole life,â€ť Bennett says.
When the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 took place, Bennett volunteered in New York City, helping first responders in honor of his father.
Heâ€™s been married to the same woman for 30 years.
â€śIâ€™m going for 30 more,â€ť he says in all seriousness.
Bennett had both knees replaced before the pandemic this year, and has spent the last six months rehabbing but still biking, hiking and staying strong.
He views hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, osteoarthritis and advancing hypertension as simply â€śannoying bumps along the road of life.â€ť
So, whatâ€™s Bennettâ€™s advice to other seniors looking to stay healthy as long as humanly possible?
â€śYou just need to do something every day; even if you just walk.â€ť
60 Strong Ambassadors will appear as pin-ups in the 2021 Central Connecticut 60 Strong Calendar. A panel of celebrity judges selected the winners, who exemplify that life after 60 can be a positive, active and vibrant time. Many of the winners are overcoming chronic illnesses, accomplishing notable athletic feats or devoting their lives to helping others. The calendar is sponsored by Starling Physicians in conjunction with Starlingâ€™s Senior Care Advantage, a program to provide seniors seamless and greater coordination of care.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.