• Aging Well: 70+ Adults and a PT Share How To Thrive, Despite Chronic Conditions

    Senior Athletes Andy Leighton and Patsy Lillehei

    October 1, 2020: Too many older adults find themselves in a pickle. They want to feel good but find themselves sitting too much, out of shape, and out of sorts.

    Andy Leighton found an answer to that problem in pickleball — an increasingly popular sport that has lessened the degenerative effects of his Parkinson disease and transformed him into a competitive athlete in his 70s. He was named Athlete of the Month for September 2020 by the National Senior Games Association.

    In this episode of Move Forward Radio, Andy and another prominent athlete in her 70s, Patsy Lillehei, join us for a round-robin discussion with physical therapist Becca Jordre. Becca is a board-certified clinical specialist in geriatric physical therapy who has worked with the National Senior Games. Her passion is promoting physical activity in older adults for healthy aging.

    Patsy talks about how a request from her daughter began her transition from overweight and underactive in her mid-60s to competitive triathlete, swimmer, and multiple Senior Games participant a decade later. This has happened despite various health conditions that might have stalled someone less determined than Patsy, whose motto is “motion is medicine.”

    Andy and Patsy discuss the role physical therapy has played in helping them stay as healthy and active as possible. Becca shares her perspectives as someone who has researched, witnessed, and facilitated the power of physical activity and physical therapy in older adults to transform lives.

    Here’s our or conversation with Becca, Patsy, and Andy.

    Download the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Play, or listen below.


    Andy Leighton
    Andy Leighton is a 73-year-old pickleball player who is winning against the degenerative effects of Parkinson. Andy credits his sport and physical therapy with helping him to keep his balance and large movement skills, which Parkinson attacks. Andy retired from doing organizational development at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and volunteer work playing French horn solos for the arrival of Honor Flight war veterans, and played tennis in college. Andy and his wife of 40 years, Helen White, live in Arlington, Virginia, and have two sons.


    Patsy Lillehei
    Patsy Lillehei, a 76-year-old who retired as a financial advisor from Wells Fargo, never considered herself an athlete until she finished a 150-mile cycling fundraiser in 2008 to honor her daughter, who has multiple sclerosis. That ride, and friends, encouraged her to take on swimming and running, and she earned first place in the 2008 Minneapolis Lifetime Triathlon. She has participated in the National Senior Games since 2011 and was selected as their 2015 Game Changer. She claims physical therapy and physical activity — her keys to managing health conditions, injuries, and pain — keep her in the game.


    Becca Jordre, PT, DPT
    Becca Jordre, PT, DPT, is an associate professor of physical therapy at the University of South Dakota who received her doctor of physical therapy degree from Duke University. She is a board-certified clinical specialist in geriatric physical therapy and a certified exercise expert for aging adults. She spends her time teaching and researching successful aging. She created the Senior Athlete Fitness Exam, which has helped to screen nearly 4,000 participants at the South Dakota Senior Games since 2009 and the National Senior Games since 2011. A marathoner and swimmer, Becca considers herself a senior athlete in training.


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