CLSA Participant Spotlight

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Larry, 60, is a social worker, marathoner, and disability rights advocate. He joined the CLSA in 2014.

Q: Could you share with us a little about your journey with aging?

I was in a bad car accident in 1990 where I sustained a brain injury and I made myself some promises after that. One of the promises was (I was 30 years of age at the time) that I’d return back to work one  day, and the other one was to run a marathon because I couldn’t walk. What I found is that running the marathon was easy, changing people’s minds was not.

Q: What is your personal approach to healthy aging?

My take on healthy aging is do what you can. Healthy living really improves your quality of life. Controlling what you do, and I truly believe that something as simple as walking, can make a huge difference. It’s amazing what you see going at a slower speed. And some people say, “You know, Larry, I can’t run, my knees hurt.” And I say, “Do what you can, what you feel comfortable with.”

After my accident, I gained a lot of weight. The only thing I could control is my life, and I did that. I went back to school and I went back to work. Going back to work was one of the hardest things I had to do. After my accident I could not walk. Most people would think that running a marathon would have been the hardest, but it was returning back to work or school. It was because of perceptions. Perceptions of people with disabilities and with brain injuries as if they can’t do the same as others. It’s just negative stereotypes and perceptions.

I never thought about this until now, but we have a bike rack at work, and I refuse to put my bike in it. Instead, I bring it into my office because clients are in my office all day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and it’s my way of showing a healthy lifestyle. So not only is the bike in there but I have some running stuff in there, a marathon medal or two, and I also have a wall full of quotes. The quotes are all about positive lifestyles and moving forward. I can’t believe how many people come up to me and say, “When will you retire?” And I say, “I don’t feel like retiring.” So, my personal approach to healthy aging is exactly that.

Q: What do you hope the CLSA will accomplish?

I really truly hope that what the CLSA does accomplish is to get an accurate reflection, scientifically and research based, that really paints a clear picture of the aging process from coast to coast. How is aging affected socially, economically, and looking at all the different characteristics that can cause and reduce stress? What I see coming out of this study is a teaching tool to help people age with dignity. I hope this research can get a clear picture of reality and not just perception and will help to inform policies that improve quality of life and ensuring a more cost-efficient health-care system.