April 2019: Mary Burnet (North Bethesda, MD)
Mary Burnet has been my client for almost 6 months. She’s 95 years old(!) and has had an incredibly cool life. She was a U.S. diplomat for more than 30 years, has been politically active for much longer, has lived in 8 countries, speaks 4 languages fluently, plays 3 instruments, and has read 100’s of books. She’s the loving mother of 4 children, grandmother of 7, and great-grandmother of 4 babies.
Mary was raised in the heart of Tennessee in the 1920s and 30s. As you can imagine, systematic racism was a fact of life. This was a time and environment where oppression and segregation of minorities was normal and accepted. It wasn’t until she was almost 40 years old that protective laws and the social movement to break stereotypes took off. At that time, Mary began to question her ideologies and beliefs from childhood. She wanted to learn more, so she started having conversations with political leaders about social oppression. She went back to university to take a few classes on politics and social sciences to understand how she could best help. She made a conscious choice to live the rest of her life accepting and caring about all people.
When you meet Mary, what stands out is her energy and vitality. Mary is incredibly kind and considerate, always listening to others and really hearing what they have to say in order to lend a helping hand or word of advice. She’s fun to be with; always ready to laugh and tell an interesting and uplifting story. She’s incredibly knowledgeable about so much in the world, and enjoys talking about the new things she’s learned. I love asking her questions and absorbing some of her knowledge. When I asked: “Mary, how can people stay youthful and vibrant as they grow older?,” of course, she had 2 answers:
1. Take care of your health: Watch your weight and stay active.
2. Get interested in things: Music, church, books, politics, sports. Whatever you find interesting, really pursue it.
When we started half a year ago, due to a damaged hip that she broke 15 years ago, Mary relied heavily on her cane. Together, we worked on some major adjustments: leg strength to facilitate walking, ankle and knee balance, increased flexibility to allow longer and wider steps when necessary, improved upper-body strength for increased movement and balance, and more. Now, Mary walks almost entirely without her cane, using it only for long walks and going up and down stairs! From our first session, I knew that she would succeed because she listens and implements the things we talk about. And she is focused and determined to achieve her goals. Next, we are preparing her for Pilates classes she plans to take with her daughter. What a spirit!
Here’s to you Mary: for teaching us that at any age, with an optimistic attitude and investing our time and energy, we can improve our lives.