Sunday, August 12, 2007

Mary Haines: A 93-year-old Blind Athlete Helps Us See What Life Can Be

Mary Haines is pooped. Although she is legally blind and wears a hearing aid, she has just (Aug. 11) competed in a 2-mile race at Shelburne Falls, Mass. with the help of her guide dog Verna. She proudly wears the gold medal awarded to her for coming in first in her over-90 age group.

After some coaxing, she admits, unapologetically, that she was the only competitor in that age group. "You should have seen all the people cheering me when I crossed the finish line," she said. "To get the gold, you got to get old."

She started running at 68 after her husband died and never stopped. She has competed in Australia, South Africa, and Japan. She has run in every National Senior Olympics since 1987. She has recently taken up the javelin and begun lessons in competitive rowing.

"I just love it," she said. "It makes me feel so good, though I'm tired right now," she said. But she quickly added, "I have a right, don't you think? I did finish the whole two miles."

She then dove into a dish of rice, lentils, and sauteed onions plus a kale salad. The meal was prepared by her daughter Marybeth, with whom she lives along with her 32-year-old granddaughter Jaime. This is a rare multi-generational household with an open door through which family and friends are constantly welcomed.

Marybeth Home, 61, is shown in the photo preparing a fresh kale salad. She does all the cooking and food shopping for the household. She gets fresh organic fruits and vegetable directly from a farm cooperative. The family eats no meat and avoids milk and other dairy products

Marybeth is a Board Certified Holistic Health Counselor trained at the Institutre for Integrative Nutrition in NYC. The Institute is accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.

She is also a breast cancer survivor. After a lumpdectomy, she refused chemotherapy and other suggested traditional treatment.

"I knew what that would do to my body and I just didn't want to subject my body to that," she said.

Instead, she took control of her own treatment. Creating and following her own strict diet and exercise regimen, she has remained cancer-free. To spread the word about how she and her Mom Mary Haines have achieved healthy, disease-free lives, Marybeth founded Health and Home Matters. The organization delivers its nutrition and exercise programs to retirement and assisted living communities, hospitals, senior centers, church groups, and wellness organizations. Health and Home Matters can be reached at and

Mary Haines ate two heaping plates. "I have a good appetite" she said. Except for her macular degeneration and some balance and hearing problems, she is in perfect health. "Exercise, healthy food, and family,"she said, succinctly summarizing the conclusions of tens of thousands of studies in learned journals.

She pumps her stationary bike every day for an hour and works out at Curves three times a week. She takes no medications, not even aspirin. "Why should I?" she says. "I never even get a headache"

She is also one of the happiest human beings you will ever meet. "I have everything anybody could ask for," the mother of six and grandmother of nine said. "I have no worries. I thank God every day for the way he has blessed me." A devout Catholic, Mary goes to Mass five mornings a week.

At 93, she is the last of 10 siblings and the only one to live beyond the mid-50's. Asked if she expects to live forever, she doesn't answer but breaks into a big smile. Oh my God, a visitor thinks. Even living forever is on the table with this woman.

She can't see the visitor but smiles right at him and pulls him close and gives him a big, full-hearted hug. "God bless you," she whispers."

Thanks, Mary. May you live forever.

So long and keep moving.