Ageless Creativity

What’s the key to staying active? Turn off the TV, get out of that easy chair, and grab a slice of life, say three vibrant 80-somethings.

Going for the gold

At age 71, Midland resident Bill Horning brought home a gold medal from the United States Figure Skating Adult Championships.

He won that medal at Lake Placid in New York, no less.

“It is the first indoor rink to ever be in the Olympics,” he says proudly. “It was done in 1932. I was born in 1932. That’s a good omen.”

And, he adds, it’s the rink that was used by famous figure skating star Sonja Henie.

Horning’s run for the gold began when he was 58 years old, after he retired from teaching. His wife, Mary, asked him to take lessons with her.

Horning’s first goal was to stand up on his own two feet and spin around on the ice.

After he purchased new skates, Horning soon accomplished his goal. But his coaches weren’t done with him yet, telling him that if he could do a spin, he could do a waltz jump.

When Horning mastered the waltz jump, his coaches encouraged him to try other figure skating moves. Then came that fateful day when Horning’s coaches urged him to compete in the Adult Championships. He thought he just might—just for fun.

“The first competition, I almost withdrew,” Horning says. “My heart was going so fast. I thought I would do a stupid job.”

But he didn’t. At age 70, he won a silver medal in an Ann Arbor competition.

Although Horning had to give up figure skating for health reasons a couple of years ago, the 81-year-old didn’t exchange his skates for the easy chair. He still does some of his training exercises, takes walks, gardens, paints, and weaves.

His secret to staying active is to get rid of the TV and find something you like to do. “Go look for an activity every day,” he says. “Keep looking until you find it.”

Mary Horning
Mary Horning

A social butterfly

Trying to get a hold of Midland resident Mary Horning is not an easy task. This 80-year-old mother of four, grandmother of six, and great-grandmother of four, is out enjoying life with her husband, Bill.

The couple can be found ballroom dancing, having dinner with friends, attending concerts and plays, or hitting the road for a trip somewhere.

What’s her secret?

While Horning gives the usual advice of drinking in moderation, not smoking, taking vitamins, and eating healthfully, she says the key to staying active as she ages is keeping busy.

“It’s just staying active, period,” she says. “Stay social. Don’t stay home and sit around doing nothing.”

Staying social includes spending time with a group of friends—friends from high school, college, and married life. College is also where Horning met her husband, in an art class at Central Michigan University some 60 years ago.

After they married, art was pushed aside as Horning raised her children.

But the art urge beckoned, and when her youngest daughter headed off to school 40 years ago, she jumped back into the art world and began making natural fiber baskets.

“A woman where we used to live was a basket instructor,” Horning says. “I decided to learn how to make baskets. I’ve been doing it for 40 years.”

Now, at age 80, Horning makes baskets from materials she finds in nature.

“I don’t follow any patterns,” she says. “I enjoy creating them (baskets) from natural fibers like birch bark, red twig, dogwood, [or] some sticks I find and weave into the basket. I use wisteria vines [and] roots that grow around the base of the trees. I just like to do that.”

Horning offers one last piece of advice for staying active: volunteer.

Barbara Zimmerman
Barbara Zimmerman

Following a dream

From outer space to Michigan lighthouses, there isn’t much that 83-year-old Midland resident Barbara Zimmerman isn’t interested in.

I’m interested in everything,” she says. “I read a lot. I love being with people. I like to talk to people who are interesting to talk to. They don’t have to be artists. They can be scientists. I’ve always had a great interest in space. I should have been on Star Trek.”

She is proof positive that you are never too old to go after your dreams.

Zimmerman’s dream growing up was to go to art school. But her parents thought she should get a job where she could make more money.

Being a dutiful daughter, she did just that, working as a waitress, a mink farmer, and finally at Kroger until she retired 29 years ago.

“Now, I’m going to do what I wanted to do,” says Zimmerman. “I started taking [art] classes and I loved it. I still paint and I enjoy every minute of it.”

Zimmerman began living her dream when she signed up for an art class taught by Jay Sabyan at Midland High School. After that, she signed up for more classes at the Midland Community Center.

Zimmerman works in watercolors, painting not only abstract art, but more traditional work as well, such as paintings of Michigan lighthouses and portraits.

“I love the flow of watercolors,” she says. “I paint a variety of things. I’ve never locked myself into one thing.”

The key to staying young, says Zimmerman, is keeping an open mind and thinking outside the box.

“You have to be interested in things,” she says. “You can’t just sit around saying ‘woe is me.’ You have to forge ahead and make your own life.”


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