Today as I was running I was thinking about Harriette Thompson, the 91yr old woman from North Carolina who ran San Diego’s Rock and Roll Marathon on June 1st.

I do some of my best thinking when I’m running. I find that once I get a couple of miles in, I’m on cruise control and I can think, pray, and really feel free from the rest of the crazy, busy world. It’s one of my favorite things to do and I hope to be able to continue for many years.

A remarkable woman

Today as I was running I was thinking about Harriette Thompson, the 91yr old woman from North Carolina who ran San Diego’s Rock and Roll Marathon on June 1st. She finished in 7hrs and 7 minutes and broke the record for the fastest marathon run in the 90-94 age group. Even more remarkable is that it was her 15th time running the SoCal race, and she’s also a cancer survivor and a former concert pianist (see full story here).

I spent much of my afternoon run thinking about her and how amazing it is that she is still running, still finding purpose (she has raised over $90,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society with these runs), and still pushing to make an impact on the world around her.

Challenging the Carefree Lifestyle

I also spent some time thinking about Steve Moran’s post a few weeks ago when he proposed that we could be devaluing our elders by offering them the “cruise ship” lifestyle and stripping them of the very thing they need to continue to keep going; purpose. If we promise them a luxurious, carefree lifestyle in which they don’t have to worry about anything, what are we really leaving them with at the end of the day?

After all . . . we were created for more than simply eating, drinking, and being merry. We were made to a make a difference in this world and image forth something bigger than ourselves. We have the capacity to write beautiful poetry, record heartbreakingly lovely music, and to create astounding pieces of art. Why should any of that stop just because we reach a certain age? And why should we, as senior living providers, think that people who ran companies and had remarkable lives would be satisfied with happy hours and bingo? We’ve got to do better. We can do better.

Fast Forward

Finally, I spent some time thinking about what I’ll be like in 45 years- I’ll be 86, and if my life thus far has served as a predictor of my future, I suspect I’ll still need to be doing something meaningful.

I’ve packed quite a lot into my life this far and yet with each accomplishment and milestone I find myself looking for that next thing. To be sure, I know I need to continue to grow more in my ability to be content, but this restlessness drives me on to continue to look for new avenues of usefulness. I want to get to the end of my life and look back and see that it meant more than just living for my own enjoyment. I think most people feel that way, including the residents who live in senior communities.

I challenge you to envision your life when you are in your 80’s or 90’s, and what you imagine it will look like. If you are honest with yourself, I’ll bet you won’t want to be going to bingo and looking forward to three meals a day as the high point in your schedule. I think you’ll want to be like Harriette; challenging aging norms, supporting worthy causes, and living life to the absolute fullest.

After contemplating your future as a senior citizen, take that vision of your future self and use it to revolutionize your senior living communities through better programming, engagement, food service, and other areas of impact. Let Harriette remind you that those we serve come to us with decades of life experience, business acumen, and the philanthropic drive to continue to change the world around them. We cannot miss the opportunity to tap into those individuals lives and see them continue to flourish well into their later years. And who knows, maybe you’ll encounter a few nonagenarian marathoners along the way! Or maybe, just maybe, you might be one too!