During our program at Richard Salter Storrs Library, “Aging with Vitality: Raising Healthy Parents, Living in Community,” Mary’s daughter Marybeth Home of Northampton showed a documentary Marybeth created about the athletic life Mary led in her 80s and 90s, before she passed away at 98 years old. And Marybeth’s daughter Jaime Olander, and Jaime’s wife, Kelsey Flynn, talked about what it was like to live in community with Mary—and with Jaime and Kelsey’s toddler son—in the years before Mary’s death.
The key messages heard by our audience of roughly 20 people from around the region were to keep moving and embrace family support.
“That’s what my mom would say,” Marybeth said. “Keep moving.”
Marybeth’s documentary on her mother, called “No Ordinary Love,” offered up the highlights of Mary’s life—her fierce love for her children and her commitment to church—but it focused on Mary’s athleticism. In her late 60s, Mary took up running, traveling extensively to compete in races. She earned accolades and set records as well.
Mary also took up basketball in her 70s, and in her 80s, when her vision was severely compromised, she learned to row and could often be seen on the Connecticut River with Mary, who at that time lived with her mother and served as her coach and caretaker.
There were few dry eyes in the library’s event room as the documentary drew to a close, and viewers saw the poignant moments of the end of Mary’s life. During this time, Mary, Marybeth, Jaime, Kelsey, and son Little Gram—named after Mary, who was known as “Gram” in her family—all lived together in a single-family home in Northampton. Mary’s children and grandchildren cared for her, and, Mary reveled in their company, companionship, and support and drew strength from the mere presence of Little Gram.
Marybeth also shared these tips for aging with vitality:
- Above all, keep moving. Be active. Be athletic. Don’t sit still.
- Do what you love. Mary enjoyed following all her various passions and continued to set new goals for herself as she aged.
- Crowd in vegetables. In her later years, Marybeth said Mary was always making soups full of vegetables and believed that vegetables helped support her longevity.
- Drink plenty of water. Hydration is key to many aspects of good health.
- Find a health partner. Marybeth was Mary’s health partner, and she said it was critical for Mary to have someone to support and encourage her; it kept her moving.
- Spend time in gratefulness. Mary had a grateful heart and saw the world as “three quarters full” or “all the way full,” Marybeth said. Even though she had lost her eyesight, Mary was grateful for her mobility, for instance.
As our audience agreed, Home’s messages of love, health, and family are not to be missed. To invite her to present her film to your group, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.