Current Issue / DU Alumni

Alumna doesn’t let age interfere with adventure

Marion Downs

Marion Downs (center) embraces life by exercising her body and mind and by looking for new challenges. Photo: Courtesy of Marion Downs

For her upcoming birthday, 94-year-old Marion Downs (MA audiology ’51) says she plans on going skydiving—again.

Even as she approaches the century mark, Downs—who went skydiving for the first time to celebrate her 90th birthday—rarely allows her age to interfere with her desire for adventure. She admits, however, that in her younger years she almost let negative thoughts and habits prevent her from enjoying life.

Twenty-two years ago, Downs believed she was going to die. Both of her parents died at age 72, and so Downs had prepared herself to follow suit. Her physician pointed out, however, that advances in modern medicine unavailable to her parents could now prolong her life well past the age of 100.

Ironically, Downs says, at the time, the information frightened her because she had no idea how to navigate the next phase of her life.

“In the 80s you get ambushed by all sorts of physical problems that you aren’t prepared to deal with,” Downs says. “If you don’t enjoy life you don’t want to live to be 100.”

Like so many other times in her life, Downs dealt with uncertainty by striding forward, one day at a time.

“You can always tell the pioneers,” Downs says, “because they’re the ones with arrows in their backs.”

Without a road map to aging gracefully, Downs invested herself in a common-sense philosophy: “If you are fit physically then you are fit mentally.”

Despite high-blood pressure, arthritis and other physical ailments, Downs religiously engaged in daily exercise—including skiing and tennis—and relied on reading and crossword puzzles to keep her mind sharp.

Not only has this regimen carried her through to her 94th birthday, it has enabled her to maintain a high quality of life—something Downs says she could never sacrifice.

Downs, who believes she’s learned enough about life to pass that knowledge on, published a book—Shut Up and Live! (Avery, 2007)—expanding upon her recipe for longevity. Downs hopes that her advice will benefit readers by inspiring them to take responsibility for their lives.

Downs is looking forward to taking another 17,000-foot plunge because for her, life simply isn’t fulfilling if she doesn’t have yet another challenge to overcome.

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