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Friday, October 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Retirees scale climbing wall as part of Active Aging Week

Mark Donovan 73, a resident of Touchmark on South Hill, makes his way up the climbing wall Monday at Wild Walls. As part of Active Aging Week, Touchmark has a week of activities scheduled for their residents, including trying their hand at the climbing wall at Wild Walls. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Mark Donovan 73, a resident of Touchmark on South Hill, makes his way up the climbing wall Monday at Wild Walls. As part of Active Aging Week, Touchmark has a week of activities scheduled for their residents, including trying their hand at the climbing wall at Wild Walls. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Mary Donovan didn’t come here to climb. But there she was Tuesday finding the next hand hold as she reached out her shaking hand on the climbing wall at Wild Walls in downtown Spokane.

Donovan, 64, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, had to be coaxed down the wall. She wouldn’t trust the safety rope and harness when her hand was doing a fine job securing her to the wall.

“I can’t believe I did that,” Donovan said, smiling. “I’m trying to prove to myself that I can still do stuff.”

Her husband, Mark Donovan, 73, roped up and climbed all the way to the top of the wall. “I’ve wanted to do it in the past, but I never had the opportunity.”

The couple was among a handful of elderly climbers who scaled one of the prefabricated climbing walls at Wild Walls, 202 W. Second Ave. The event was coordinated by the management at Touchmark on South Hill, which is a retirement home.

“This is Active Aging Week. Our main purpose is to change how people think about aging,” said Lori McCormick, who is the director of fitness at Touchmark. “I think it would surprise people that we have retirement home residents coming to do rock climbing.”

The Donovans took their first rock climbing adventure of their 41-year marriage. Their union started after Mary spotted Mark Donovan in a Navy uniform in Boise. He explained that he worked there as a recruiter.

The couple recently moved to Spokane from Portland. Mary said they moved into Touchmark so that their children would not have the burden of caring for her if her Parkinson’s symptoms worsen.

“I said, ‘I’ll take pictures.’ But when I got there, I thought: ‘I can do this.’”

McCormick said Touchmark scheduled the event, with the help of Wild Walls, as part of Active Aging Week that was established by the International Council on Aging. It runs from Oct. 1-7.

“Older people are only as old as they feel.” McCormick said. “This week is about changing the stereotypes people have about aging.”

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