Inspiring Stories About Active Aging from Walker Methodist
Like all people who love running, I aspire to run forever. I came to running as an adult and truly hope that I can stay healthy and fit enough to run until the end of my lifetime. It is with this sentiment that I connected with the staff and residents of Walker Methodist, a faith-based, non-profit senior living organization that provides housing, healthcare, rehabilitation, and services to seniors and the people who support them.
I was vaguely familiar with Walker Methodist after running the Walker Methodist 5K a couple of years ago as a final tune-up race for Grandma’s Marathon. Back then I was unfamiliar with the Active Aging Program at Walker Methodist but over the past few weeks have been uniquely delighted to learn more about the program and the Walker Methodist residents in the process.
The Active Aging Program
The Active Aging Program was designed to get residents of the Walker Methodist housing communities active and moving while also promoting overall health and wellness. Fun fact: Walker Methodist offers a variety of programs, services, and activities to help residents lead a healthy lifestyle.
To participate, residents of any of the ten Walker Methodist housing communities could sign up for free and attempt to walk, pedal, or step a total of 5k (3.1 miles) or 10k (6.2 miles) between the dates of April 3 and May 26th. Many have already completed their distances while others are in the finishing stretch of the challenge. There will even be approximately 15 residents running/walking in the upcoming Walker Methodist 5K & 10K on June 3!
Related: Marathoning at 60: Still a Thrill
About the Participants
After hearing about this incredible program, I just had to learn more about the participating residents. I connected with Mary Coulter, Foundation Marketing Manager at Walker Methodist, who graciously spoke with several of the Active Aging Program participants and shared their stories with me. All three participants have since completed the 5K or 10K challenge and are all winners in their respective age and gender groups (color me impressed!)
Larry P., age 69
Larry has been a Type 1 diabetic since he was six years old. After learning that he may not live past the age of 40, he decided he would “beat the system.”
Larry grew up in Colorado and was very physically active – hiking, tennis, track. He has always enjoyed physical exercise and is actively daily (except during hospital stays.) Larry has suffered several strokes in the past two years, his most recent one occurring in December of 2016. As a result of the strokes, his memory is not what it used to be and he can no longer read.
Larry has been a runner most of his life, but not competitively. Many years ago, he was a track coach and would run at 6:00 am before school and then work out again with the athletes in the afternoon. Larry now works out on the NuStep (a recumbent training machine good for all training levels and for rehabilitation purposes) 6-7 times per week and does strength training 2-3 times per week. Some days he will even make two visits to the fitness center in his housing community. It was an easy choice for Larry to join the Active Aging Program, as he can’t miss a day of exercise! Being an athlete as a child and throughout his life, he is quite competitive and enjoys seeing his progress.
On life and staying active, Larry mused, “As we age, we lose the ability to do certain things. However, it doesn’t mean our life fades away. It means that other parts of our life take over.”
Ethel Johnson, age 93
Ethel has lived in Minnesota her entire life. She has three kids, eight grandkids, and nine great-grandkids. Unfortunately, her husband passed away due to a stroke in 1993 and Ethel has since lived alone and independently for the past 24 years. She does not drive anymore and uses a walker when she leaves her apartment.
Ethel participates in many activities at Walker Methodist including Bingo, casino trips, grocery store visits, and trips to Target. She’s never been a competitive athlete, however, she has always been active and understands the value of physical exercise. Ethel really enjoys walking because it helps her to clear her head and maintain a positive attitude about life. If she’s having a bad day, she takes a walk and will always feel better. Ethel tries to walk outside most days, but if the weather is bad, she walks inside the building in the hallways. (The staff in her housing community have computed the walking distances of the hallways for residents.)
While Ethel will not be walking around the lake at the Walker Methodist 5K, she has attended several of the past race events. She said that she tries not to miss them and that the residents have a good time cheering on the runners and walkers no matter what. She said, “we are a fun bunch.”
Ethel summed up her interview by stating, “Living is fun!” and it clear she is having a blast!
Larry K., age 82
Larry spent most of his life in North Dakota and spent much of his professional time as the Executive Director of the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Foundation, based in Minot, North Dakota. He is very personable, engaged, interested in current events, family, and his local community. He is a generous resident at Walker Methodist and is always happy to share his time, energy, and special items with residents and the community.
Larry used to play a lot of golf and was very active in his younger years. However, he had never been a big walker or runner until he received his dog, Curly, after his wife passed away. Larry takes Curly outside multiple times during the day – rain or shine. When Larry first started walking with Curly, he noticed a lot of trash and debris along the walking path and in the brush. As a result, Larry bought a picker and now takes the picker and a trash bag with him on his daily walks – they pick up a lot of trash! Walking and picking up trash has been very rewarding for Larry. He not only feels better physically but also mentally and believes he is making a small difference in his community. His walks have clearly given Larry a purpose and meaning to his days.
Larry joined the Active Aging Program because he was already walking daily and believes that staying active is a good thing. The program was a good way for him to see how far he really walks over time. Larry walks about 2 miles per day but said that to be able to see it all add up makes it more impressive. Since April 3rd through the middle of May 2017, Larry had already walked over 110 miles!
Larry highlighted one final important component of the Active Aging Program. “Getting involved is a good thing. It’s important to get involved and be a part of a community,” he said.
Wisdom from the Active Aging Participants
Upon reflecting on the interviews with each participant, Mary noted, “it was amazing to compare and contrast the reasons [each participant] leads active lives.” I, too, was struck by their differences and inspired by their tenacity. One thing is for sure, Larry P., Ethel, and Larry K. are invested in living healthy, full, and purposeful lives. I loved reading about their zeal for life and aim to incorporate more of these sentiments into my everyday life (running and otherwise), too. After all, we never have to run, we get to run!
Join the Participants of the Walker Methodist Active Aging Program
You can join fellow runners, walkers, and yes, even a few Active Aging Program participants at the 13th Annual Walker Methodist 5K & 10K on Saturday, June 2nd, 2018. The races take place around beautiful Lake Harriet. Dogs and strollers are welcome! All participants receive a t-shirt and awards given to overall and age group winners. Proceeds from the event benefit the Walker Methodist Foundation.
How Will You Age Actively?
I was so inspired by Larry P., Ethel, Larry K., and all of the Active Aging Program participants and hope to age actively long into life. What steps are you taking today to ensure a long and healthy life? How do you envision your relationship with running growing and changing over the next decade or several? Share in the comments below!