Retired colonel Dr. Ian MacDonald still golfs regularly at age 91.
Want to know how to really enjoy life — a long, long life?
Well, meeting Dr. Ian MacDonald might be a good place to start.
MacDonald has made a point, consciously or otherwise, to consistently weave a silver lining through an impressive 91 years. Not only has he made the best of each hand dealt, he has truly cherished each and every card eagerly snatched from the deck.
Take the retired dentist’s military posting many years ago to Whitehorse to replace a man who “couldn’t hack’’ the generally unsought-after posting in the Yukon.
MacDonald took a two-year posting there in stride. In fact, he embraced his time serving the military in northern Canada.
“It was wonderful,’’ he recalls with a smile following a round of golf at Andersons Creek (yes, he golfs at 91 and quite well).
“I loved it. A lot of outdoors: go fishing and bear hunting.’’
MacDonald, who reached the rank of colonel, says he liked all of his military postings. All seven. There was, he notes, some good in every one of them.
MacDonald was one of seven children who grew up in “very, very hard times’’ on a mixed farm in Mermaid, P.E.I. He joined the military in 1943 after finishing Prince of Wales College with rather unimpressive marks.
He was a 22-year-old man weighing all of 122 pounds when he entered basic training. His ensuing choice of career reflects what would be a lifetime emphasis placed on seeking the most positive path in both action and mindset.
“One fellow told me there is one thing about dentistry: you never have to sign a death certificate,’’’ he says. “I said ‘that’s the job for me.’’’
MacDonald notes he seemed to “learn to study’’ in dentistry, resulting in graduation with distinction, followed by a rewarding career.
After graduating, he went into a private practice in Hantsport, N.S., where he stayed for three years. He then went back into the military, entering the Royal Canadian Dental Corp. with his first posting in Aldershot, N.S. with the Royal Highland Regiment (known as The Black Watch) for five years.
His next posting as a dental officer lasted three years in Metz, France with 1 Canadian Air Division.
While in Europe, at age 40, MacDonald played his first round of golf. He recalls needing four strokes to sink a 10-foot putt.
He also fell in love with the game, but naturally could never have envisioned playing the sport, as he has, for more than half a century after taking it up so late in life.
“I never thought that far ahead,’’ he says. “I just lived in the day.’’
MacDonald did, though, go on to golf as much as possible each and every year, including frequent play on a course built on the military base in Kingston, Ont.
He retired from the military at age 55 while posted at the former CFB Cornwallis in Deep Brook, N.S. but, he says, being “very agile and young at the time’’ he chose to continue in private practice for another decade.
And he still went golfing every chance he got.
He became a good golfer. His best round was 77, a very decent score, but a less impressive feat than the ongoing ability to shoot his age that he first accomplished at 86. Since then, he has shot his age more times than he can count.
“He plays a very strong game of golf ... he’s a great golfer,’’ says playing partner Dick Rowell.
This season, at age 91, MacDonald even bettered his age on one outing by four strokes.
The nonagenarian takes a full, well-balanced, hearty swipe at the ball during his two rounds a week, down from three last year.
MacDonald, a healthy, slender man who could easily pass for someone in his early seventies, didn’t start using a drive car on the course until the age of 89. Unlike many other golfers, he doesn’t think much of the fact that he is able to golf at all, let alone regularly and quite well, at the advanced age of 91.
“To me it just seems normal,’’ he says. “I don’t think it’s out of the ordinary.’’
MacDonald credits his longevity, in part, to good genes and the robust life of a farm boy.
“I think you have to keep active,’’ says MacDonald, a hearty eater who smoked a pipe up until 20 years ago and enjoys a cold beer after a round of golf and particularly relishes a good single malt Scotch.
“Activity is one of the best things there is ... I know my cleaning lady said to my wife (Sheila) one day ‘does that guy ever sit down?’’’
MacDonald’s positive attitude should also be factored into the equation for his good health and long life.
Some have observed that playing just one round of golf with a man or a woman offers great insight into his or her character. Rowell is not only impressed by MacDonald’s game, but also very inspired by the man’s demeanor every time he heads out onto a golf course.
“Oh, he’s very much a gentleman and would not say anything negative ever and only try to encourage you in your game of golf and in life in general,’’ he says.
Rowell believes MacDonald’s true character shone through when he gave serious thought to walking away from the game he loves so he could spend all of his time as both husband and caregiver to his ailing wife. Sheila, though, would have none of that.
“The two of them they get along just wonderfully,’’ Rowell observes. “They would do anything for anybody.’’
MacDonald, who summers in P.E.I. and winters in Halifax, says his wife is “very positive in the fact that I play golf.’’ Her only concern is when he gets tired out playing a round of golf on a hot day.
MacDonald loves the game of golf today as much as he ever has in the past. He never gets bored of the always challenging sport. Each and every outing is enjoyable.
“You might say the bug hasn’t left me,’’ he says. “I have never had a bad meet up with anybody on the golf course.’’
MacDonald, a father of four (Alex is a colonel in the military, Jim is a mining engineer, Mark is involved in housing placement in Vancouver and Janet is a project manager for Rogers Communications) feels he has had a full life. Indeed, a good life.
He notes, from time to time, that he and Sheila will sit down to reflect and marvel over all the places they have been. In this reflection, MacDonald’s great outlook on life is well captured.
“And you know every place has it’s own particular charm,’’ he says. “Remember that. Every place has it’s own particular charm.’’