One of the blessings of working in the field of geriatric physical therapy is the opportunity to meet extraordinary individuals willing to share their life story, wisdom, and friendship. The woman pictured on this month's cover was such a woman to me. Elizabeth and I began to know each other nearly 20 years ago when, at the age of 81, she participated in a research project on balance and fear of falling that was the basis for my dissertation. She has been a wonderful role model for “healthy aging,” despite a few chronic health problems accumulated along the way, and she has reshaped my concept of what is possible in later life and the power of resilience of the human spirit. Engaged and active intellectually, socially, and physically, she was an active listener and reflective counselor for a wide circle of family and friends. Despite the pain of osteoarthritis and a growing unsteadiness that finally limited her community mobility when she reached her late 90s, Elizabeth's “joie de vivre” was infectious and inspiring. She found ways to remain connected by phone call and e-mail and continued to be the anchor for the multigenerational family who loved her. One of the last thoughts I shared with her was a comment that “I want to be just like you when I grow up” when we were speaking about the possibility of my retirement. She truly “lived” well, despite significant pain and functional limitation, right up until the moment of her passing, just shy of her 101st birthday.
There have been many inquiries about the woman whose image graced the cover of the first issue of the Journal this year: she is also an Elizabeth and is this grateful editor's mother. The picture was taken in a formal garden during a trip that we took together to Ireland several years ago, when she was approaching her 80th birthday. A very private person, she agreed to be our “cover girl” only when I explained that it was an opportunity for me to honor her love and guidance and her belief in possibilities that have been the foundation for my personal and professional life, a small token of thanks and a celebration of a well-lived life.
If you have images of older adults who are active and engaged in the process of living, whether in the community, in assisted living, or in long-term care, please consider submitting them for future cover art. Images should be in electronic format (.jpg, .tiff), of at least 300 dpi, and must be accompanied by a photography permission form signed by all individuals who can be identified in the picture. Send images via e-mail to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am sure each of us can bring to mind older women and men who have been both an inspiration and an agent of change in our professional careers. In many ways, all of the research articles and case reports that appear in the Journal are tributes to those aging adults who serve as a catalyst for our work as researchers, clinicians, and educators in the field of geriatric rehabilitation. As you read the work in this issue, presented as evidence that will inform our clinical decision making, reflect a moment and offer thanks to those aging adults who, as participants in research studies, have contributed to the development of new knowledge and the advancement of physical therapy practice.
Michelle M. Lusardi