Life Lessons From The Remarkable Mrs. J

Her profound life philosophy in three simple words

Elderly lady reading

I climbed the stairs to the split-level home and rang to doorbell. A voice yelled, “Come on in, it’s unlocked.”

When I entered her home, a delicious scent of pot roast hung in the air. Mrs. J sat in a recliner at the far end of her cozy living room. A walker stood on her right, ready to assist when she needed to move. On the left, a small table held a notebook, an iPhone, and a small device for measuring blood oxygen levels.

After the usual pleasantries, I started the session by gathering her past medical history, current living situation, family support, and other information. 

“Did they tell you I’m 95 years old?”

As she spoke, I noticed the Apple Watch on her left wrist and the iPad in her lap. Mrs. J saw my attention shift to her devices. Without prompting, she professed her love of Apple devices and their ecosystem. A true Apple fangirl.  She raved about how useful and easy they were for older people to learn. Her Apple watch measured heart rate and oxygen levels, so it often replaced the hospital-issued pulse oximeter.

Next, the physical exam. I checked her strength, balance, and mobility to determine her levels of safety and function. Standing with her walker, Mrs. J boasted that she hadn’t used any type of assistive device before her fall. She removed her hands from the walker and stood on one leg for a few seconds, to prove she had good balance.

Just before we started walking, she leaned in and tilted her head toward me. With a wink and a slight smile, she said, “I still live on my own and I drive every day.” 

We walked around the house so I could check her stability and endurance. Like a museum tour guide, Mrs. J showcased family heirlooms and antiques in every room. The prime exhibit – her quilting room. Several large, heavy quilts hung from racks on the wall. Mismatched patches of patterned material covered the sewing station. A partially finished quilt laid across a table.

Her attention to detail and craftsmanship were outstanding. It was clear that she’d done it for a long time, but I was curious.

“How long have you been quilting?”

“Oh, I’ve done it for nearly 30 years. I started when I was 68.”

She continued, “I’m the president of my quilting club. And three other social clubs.”

We continued our tour, leaving the quilting room and heading downstairs. Mrs. J explained her usual method of carrying her basket of dirty clothes to the laundry room using the stair rail for support. In the laundry room, she stood steady as a statue as she simulated dumping clothes into the washer.

The last stop on our journey was the exit to the garage. I needed to assess her ability to leave her home safely. When I opened the door to the garage, I saw her new charcoal Toyota RAV4 waiting patiently. She smiled as she stared at this symbol of independence and freedom. 

“I bought it last year. Paid cash. My son said I shouldn’t, but I told him it’s my money.”

We practiced going in and out of the garage for a few minutes, then headed back upstairs to finish the session.

Mrs. J returned to her recliner. I packed up my equipment and sat across from her to review the session. We discussed her goals and scheduled follow-up visits.

I’d never met anyone like her in my 20-year physical therapy career. 95 years old. Her enthusiasm for life. Her passion for technology and learning new things. Her mental sharpness and fierce independence.

She was remarkable.

I had to know her secret.

I asked her what she thought helped her age so well. 

“You want to know my secret?”

“JUST KEEP MOVING.”

And there it was. So simple. So clear. Three little words.

In those three little words, a profound philosophy for life. Aspirational. Practical.

JUST KEEP MOVING.