Life isn’t always easy, especially in these uncertain times. Yet, for many of us, there can be comfort in hearing from others who have faced hardship, particularly those who’ve come before us and may have some inspirational advice to share.

In recognition of Older Americans Month this May, Iora Primary Care, a national doctor’s office for adults on Medicare, is highlighting #StoriesofStrength to celebrate the words and wisdom of its older adult patients who have lived through other hard times in their lives. 

Each with their own stories, they offer inspirational advice and reminders to us all when facing life’s many challenges. 

Take a big, deep breath and go for it. Step after step.

For older American Phil, life “over the hill” hasn’t necessarily translated into a smooth descent; but rather, a continuous and steady climb toward self improvement.

By the time he was 55, Phil had battled prostate cancer and undergone several other surgeries. On the heels of his cancer diagnosis and radical surgery, was the realization that his dream of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa might remain just a dream. 

And yet, after his operation, Phil began going out for walks. At first, just half a mile, but increasingly, longer distances. He began swimming and eventually exercising in the gym before turning his dream into reality, sooner than anyone had imagined. 

“Four months after the radical surgery, I stood on top of Mount Kilimanjaro, nearly 20,000 feet high,” Phil says. “Maybe I was the first to reach the summit wearing a Depends, but I did it.”

While the second-half of life may be no easy hike; for Phil, it’s an invitation to continue onward:

“When I grow up, I want to be still growing, still a learner, confident, respected, and socially useful,” he says. “The way to achieve such goals is to take a big, deep breath and go for it, step after step.”

Find a reason to get up every day; look for the rainbow.

Having just celebrated her 80th birthday this month, older American Janet is happy to be here for it. Janet not only recently survived coronavirus, but has also survived a lot before that. 

“I was homeless and hungry, and a raging alcoholic living in Mexico in a very tragic situation,” she says. “ I would go to a catholic church on my knees for food. I would say to God, ‘if you could get me out of this, I would owe you for the rest of my life.’”  

Amidst those troubling years, Janet managed to turn her life around, going on to become a multi-millionaire and working with Alcoholics Anonymous — work she says is still a major part of her life today. Janet says such events were nothing short of a miracle, which is also how she describes surviving coronavirus just this year. 

In March, upon experiencing flu-like symptoms, it was then that Janet became delusional and was having trouble breathing when her children called her doctor. She was rushed to the hospital, where she spent 10 days intubated. Only later it was discovered that her tube had a leak in it, further putting her life and recovery at-risk. 

Following 18 days in the hospital, Janet recovered. And today, she is more grateful than ever. “As I fight to get back my lungs and fight every breath, I am realizing two important things: how precious life is, and how important it is to push forward every day.”

“Never give up, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other,” Janet says. 

“Find a reason to get up in the morning and do something. Look for the rainbow—we need positive experiences and they don’t have to be big or expensive.” 

Encouraging words do help. Lift people up.

At the young age of 17, older American Ralph found his world turned upside down after a severe car accident which resulted in a broken back in two places, a broken shoulder and internal injuries. The accident also left him paralyzed from his waist down, needing to learn how to walk again. 

Not surprisingly, his life was changed forever. The accident, says Ralph, sent him into a downward spiral with alcohol and drugs. However, after a long and hard fought battle to recover, he now finds himself as someone offering support to others in need.

Following his role as head cook at an Alcohol Treatment Center, Ralph continues to volunteer and help the homeless. “I’m still giving back especially to the ones that have substance abuse problems because I’ve been there,” he says.

Today, coming full circle, Ralph’s life mission is to help others, and he encourages others to do the same:

“I would encourage people to keep on driving forward because there’s no word in the vocabulary to quit or give up. That’s what I try to do, encourage people.”

About “Stories of Strength” 

The above excerpts comprise stories featured as part of Iora Primary Care’s #StoriesofStrength series. In recognition of Older Americans Month, the series celebrates the words and wisdom of its older adult patients, featuring daily inspirational stories throughout the month of May. 

At Iora, where care is built on relationships and genuinely getting to know patients to treat their whole health, we are honored to know and share our patients’ experiences and wisdom as a reminder and inspiration for facing adversity. 

To read more about these and others’ #StoriesofStrength visit: