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Freak-of-Nature? or Future of Senior Living?

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By Steve Moran

More and more frequently we see stories like this one . . .

85-Year-Old So Fast Even Scientists Marvel

The Story

Ed Whitlock is 85 years old and lives in Ontario, Canada. Last October (2015), he ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 3 hours 56 minutes and 34 seconds. In doing so, he became the oldest person to run a marathon in under 4 hours.  

The story goes on to outline how in spite of a very non-orthodox training regimen -- meaning all he does is run circles in a cemetery -- he has this amazing body that, in many respects, looks more like something that belongs to a 30- or 40-year-old, rather than an 85-year-old.

The story is a great read.

He is a Freak

It is easy to say “nothing to really learn here.” He is just another freak of nature (in the best possible way) -- with the right genes and right mental condition -- but there nothing to learn here from a senior living perspective.

And maybe that is true . . . yet, I keep finding myself thinking there is something here that we can learn from.  

Let’s try these on and see if they resonate with you:

  • As senior living exists today it is not really something that would possibly appeal to this guy, with the possible exception of some Life Plan Communities. Even most independent living communities are geared toward seniors who are declining not thriving.

  • The article suggests a big part of his success (and others like him) is that they “haven’t killed off their inner 13-year-old”. They continue to be curious . . . full of physical and emotional vigor." . . . the older aunt or uncle who insists on shooting squirt guns at family reunions.

    I would suggest these are things that are within the control -- or at least influence -- of a senior living community. A year or so ago I visited a senior living community in Canada where the activity for that afternoon was a series of games that you would more likely see at a early teen halloween party. The one that sticks in my mind was having residents try to eat an apple hanging from a string without using their hands.

    My initial reaction was how child-like and undignified . . . how trite . . . but I find myself thinking maybe we actually need more of these things.

In my mind there are three big questions:

  • Should we even try to create a product that would appeal to Ed?

  • Can we create a product that will appeal to Ed?

  • How do we as senior living providers help our residents rediscover and embrace their inner 13-year-old?

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