DENVER -- How would you like to live your life at 90 years old? What would you want to accomplish if you knew you were going blind? A group of Denver women have been addressing those tough questions head-on in recent months. Their answer? Do as much as you can for as long as you can.
The lunch table at Clermont Park Retirement Home has always been a place for telling stories and sharing memories but lately it’s also been a place for making plans. During a recent visit, 90-year-old Jean Johnston discussed one possibility for her friends to consider.
"We could go to Water World and go to that thing they have. The problem is, I wouldn't, under any circumstances, get in a bathing suit again," Johnston said, drawing a laugh from the entire table.
Bathing suits may be the only things that are off limits for Johnston and her friends. In recent months the five women, all in the 80s and 90s, have done everything from skydiving to a bar crawl.
"Some are braver than others," said 85-year-old Shirley Sweden. "If seniors can go on these bar hops, then I thought, 'I'm going to join that.'"
"It's just opened up a whole new world," Johnston said.
With so many big events going on, Evelyn Lyons realized that she had to do something really special for her 90th birthday, especially since her friend Sue Blaes was also turning 80 on the same day.
After some debate, Lyons realized that there was one thing she’d been waiting to do for 82 years: ride in a hot-air balloon.
"I remember when I was 8 years old, I was digging dandelions in the back yard and all of a sudden a voice up above yelled down to me, 'Hello!'" Lyons said.
A couple weeks later, all five women gathered in Longmont for the ride of a lifetime with Fair Winds Hot Air Balloon Flights.
Even before they loaded into the basket, Lyons realized she was about to fulfill a childhood dream.
"I'm just feeling like a little girl experiencing something that I've always wanted to do," Lyons said.
For Johnston, it wasn’t just something she wanted to experience. She knew she needed to do it soon.
"I don't see out of my left eye,” Johnston said. “There's just a dark circle in the center, and the right (eye) is disintegrating."
She was referring to her macular degeneration, which will eventually take her sight.
"I just need to get so many things done, before I can't do them anymore," Johnston said.
Aging may be unavoidable, but as a balloon prepared for take-off on a clear Saturday morning, it was clear that some feelings never get old.
"It's wonderful. I just have tingles all over," Lyons said.
As all five friends began their ascent in a balloon, they couldn’t contain their excitement and awe.
"Look at this. We're above the whole wide world,” Johnston said, with tears in her eyes. "This is… it's just beautiful."
Johnston says she knows her vision is fleeting, but life is too. That hasn’t stopped any of these friends from living.
"It proves that we're not sitting around in our chairs waiting to die," Blaes said.
Jean and her friends say they are already looking for their next big adventure and they’re open to suggestions. Have some ideas? Let us know!