Before Lucille Pierce sits down to practice her calligraphy, she takes a few deep breaths, gets comfortable in her chair and stretches her hands and body. “It’s relaxing,” she says. “And it’s a meditative practice.” Her hand is steady as she puts pen to paper on a small wooden writing desk her late-husband crafted for her.
Calligraphy is one of the many activities that has helped Lucille, who is 101 years old, stay active and engaged as she gets older. Lucille’s calligraphy is displayed around her home, everywhere from handmade books of nursery rhymes for her great-grandchildren to beautifully framed quotes on the wall to personalized bookmarks for guests.
Lucille credits activities like calligraphy, strong social connections with friends and family, and a lifelong love of learning as the secret to aging well. However, she is also quick to point out how one book – The Gift of Caring: Saving Our Parents from the Perils of Modern Health Care by Elizabeth Eckstrom, M.D., MPH, MACP, and Marcy Coutrell Houle, M.S. – also opened her eyes to a different way of experiencing and receiving age-friendly care.
Lucille and her daughter Julie Huisman, the youngest of Lucille’s four children and one of her primary caregivers, both read the book and sought out Dr. Eckstrom for a holistic, geriatric approach to Lucille’s primary care. Elizabeth Eckstrom is Chief of Geriatrics at OHSU, where she sees patients and their families and teaches students, young physicians in residency, and practicing clinicians, focusing on promoting a healthy lifestyle in seniors and in educating all health professionals to be competent in the care of older adults.
“When I think about the rest of my mom’s life, what I want for her is to be independent and vital and alive – living fully like she does now. I think a lot of this has come to pass because of the geriatrics department at OHSU.”Julie Huisman, OHSU philanthropist
“We had both experienced medical doctors who were not as interested in my mom because she was older. What really struck me at OHSU was the time they take to spend with her and to know her as a person,” said Julie. “No one has ever told her, you can’t do that because you’re old.”
Even at 101, Lucille is able to still live independently in her apartment in Southeast Portland, where she enjoys frequent visits from family, friends and even her yoga group, which during the pandemic met outside her patio door on the lawn.
In response to the excellent personalized care that Lucille receives at OHSU, Julie and her husband Wayne support the Walker Fund for Geriatric Practice, which exposes medical, nursing, pharmacy and other students to geriatrics early in their training in an effort to increase interest in this specialty.
“When I think about the rest of my mom’s life, what I want for her is to be independent and vital and alive – living fully like she does now. I think a lot of this has come to pass because of the geriatrics department at OHSU,” concluded Julie.
As Dr. Eckstrom shares, “At OHSU, we have the research side. We have the education side. We have the older adult side. Placed together, we have healthy aging. Our goal is to wrap that all together to provide an age friendly health system and age-friendly research.”