Imagine a warm, crisp, sun-drenched morning, a slight breeze rippling over a spectacular river, the day just getting underway for business commuters and cackling cockatoos alike. Layer in the hustle and bustle of runners, walkers and cyclist, of all ages, starting their day out right; taking in life by the lung-full.
One of those walkers is my dad, Doug Grant, clipping along the foreshore of South Perth, Western Australia. On a daily basis—and I mean like clockwork—you will find my Dad, strolling the manicured parkways along the edge of the serene Swan River.
But look a little closer and you won’t just see my Dad walking, you will see him in his element— stopping to chat along his walk. For years (even while my Mum was still alive) this has been his community. His sanctuary. His serenity. And when you are ninety years old, a solid community can be a lifesaver.
To meet my Dad is to love my Dad—easy going, unassuming, down to earth and someone you will remember for the rest of your life. He has always been like this. He is the guy that showed up at my school to chat with the class about astronomy—his hobby for fifty something years. He dropped everything for our family, putting us first when other dads were never home.
His outlook on life has always been a positive, glass-is-half-full kind of mentality—he is fueled by people, by caring, by intrigue and by being strong for others. And the igniter of this fuel is his passion for exercise.
At the ripe old age of 65, he joined the Over 55 cycling group in Perth—and to this day he is still an avid participant and team rider—riding long distances every summer; which has included three STP’s (Seattle to Portland bike ride), including once on a tandem for him and I—but that’s a story for another day.
Our family recently had the honor of celebrating his 90th on the banks of the Swan—surrounded by friends and family, you would have thought we were celebrating this guy’s 70th!
On his actual birthday—two days later—we asked him how he wanted to celebrate. No big surprise, he wanted to walk. We made the flawed mistake of asking him what the route for this walk would be. As we started to calculate in our heads approximately how far this “walk” would be, we realized this was not a walk around the block—by the time we hit 10,000 steps we discovered we were at our turn around point. Accompanied by my wife and our two girls (twelve and nine) we started to get worried—not about the 90-year old in the group, but the 9-year-old!
When all was said and done, after multiple miles of meandering along lush river parks, filled with the state bird—the Black Swan, city pavement, a quick stop for a “cuppa,” then a short ferry ride back across the river, and a brisk walk back along the south shore of the Swan, the total step count came to 25,250. Here is the kicker—if we had not enjoyed a short ride on the ferry, my Dad would have continued our walk across a nearby bridge, where our grand total would have been more than 35,000 steps.
This is how my Dad wanted to spend his ninetieth birthday with his family—walking, chatting, discovering, and being fit and healthy. Let it be known that he did not start his passion for walking at these tremendous levels—he started with far less and worked his way up to this level. So, have a goal and stick to it.
For all these years of walking and chatting, we see more than simply a fit old guy. We truly see community in action—and that is a pretty unique way to move through the world, don’t you think?
So, if you ever find yourself in Perth—officially the most isolated capital city in the world—and you end up strolling the pristine banks of the Swan River, which you inevitably will; surrounded by squabbling cockatoo, and elegant black swans, you might just see my dad, Doug Grant, meandering along the foreshore, yakking it up with his tribe, embracing growing older, staying healthy and taking in his world.
Contributor Ken Grant is vice-president of Marketing and Communications with Kelley-Ross Pharmacy Group. He is a community colleague of Mary Pat O’Leary, RN, a planner with Aging and Disability Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County, who requested Ken’s story in memory of her own father.