By Chris Fish
VIERA - Amir Pishdad celebrated his 80th birthday free-falling 13,500 feet above the ground.
"It's something that I thought was interesting and challenging," Mr. Pishdad said about his birthday skydiving trip in Sebastian earlier this month. "I thought it was great, especially the free fall for 55 seconds at (nearly) 100 mph."
Known as "Pish" to his friends and family, Mr. Pishdad's two sons, Amir Jr. and Tim, gave their father an early birthday present Aug. 15.
Mr. Pishdad, a former photojournalist from Richmond, Va., is a resident of the Indian River Colony Club, a 55 and older retirement community in Viera.
Before the jump, he was required to complete a questionnaire form at Skydive Sebastian to ensure he was healthy enough to make the dive.
The facility, which is a group member of the United States Parachute Association, offers tandem skydives over the Florida coastline.
"There is no training (before the dive) whatsoever," Mr. Pishdad said. "You just have to be in good health. I'm in pretty good shape for an 80-year-old. My wife and I take walks, and I ride my bike. I don't take any medications."
Anne Bertrang, an associate at Skydive Sebastian, said it is not unusual for the company to have senior citizens partake in their skydiving experience.
"We have all age groups," she said. "We have (age groups ranging) from 18 to 94."
Ms. Bertrang said it costs $195 to tandem skydive and an additional $100 for a DVD or photos of your fall.
The dive starts 13,500 feet above the ground, where skydivers free fall for one minute. At 5,500 feet, the diver's parachute deploys, and he or she glides to the ground for about five minutes.
Mr. Pishdad said he hopes word of his experience will inspire other seniors to partake in activities other than watching television.
"I encourage other seniors, who are in good health or the same capacity as I am, to go skydiving or do other activities, whether it be hunting, fishing or walking on the beach," he said. "I believe in destiny. I'm not advocating going up there and taking chances, but I believe it was a great thing."
Mr. Pishdad said he would go tomorrow and skydive again if he had the money to do so.
"It would be great, if I had the money," he said. "I look forward to my 90th birthday jump."