UofL Geriatrics’ new award recognizes optimal aging


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – She hikes, practices yoga, helps Habitat for Humanity-Metro Louisville build houses, drives cross county and travels to foreign lands.

    Did we also mention she recently turned 82?

    Rachele “Rae” Guernsey of Louisville, who celebrated her 82nd birthday on Sept. 21, was named today as the first recipient of the Gold Standard Award for Optimal Aging, presented by University of Louisville Geriatrics at a luncheon event at The Olmsted.

    Guernsey was chosen from a field of 22 nominees by the geriatricians and staff of UofL Geriatrics and the UofL Geriatrics Advisory Board, a group of volunteers interested and involved in caring for geriatric patients.

    “The award is presented for optimal aging across the full spectrum of physical health, mental health, social health and spiritual health,” said Christian Davis Furman, M.D., vice chair for geriatric medicine. “We want to honor those who are role models for maintaining active engagement with life well into their senior years.”

    A widow with two children and three grandchildren, Guernsey exemplifies optimal aging throughout all facets of her life. She enjoys both daytime and overnight hiking, practices yoga and is in an exercise program at her YMCA. She has been a member of the same book club for the past 35 years and is active in her church, Springdale Presbyterian, where she serves on the membership committee.

    Guernsey also is a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity-Metro Louisville and has served on its Family Selection Committee for 15 years. In the past five years, she traveled to Guatemala with Habitat and to Belize and Nicaragua with Hand in Hand Missions. This spring, she drove first to Wisconsin to pick up her two sisters and then to Montana for her nephew’s wedding – a trip of 5,000 miles in which she was the sole driver.

    Leyda Smith of Louisville nominated Guernsey for the award and cited her caring and upbeat attitude.

    “Best of all, she is a wonderful friend with a great sense of humor and a super positive attitude,” Smith said. “She likes movies, keeps up with the news and enjoys going to Churchill Downs and out for lunch and dinner.”

    Guernsey herself maintains that a balanced outlook is key.

    “I believe the secret to optimal aging is: Don’t think too little or too much of yourself,” she said. “Your body and your mind both need regular attention; your friends and family need your attention with love and respect as well. Listen to God for guidance, and at the same time, don’t take life too seriously.”

    Keynoting the event was Tori Murden McClure, Ph.D., president of Spalding University who told the 200 in attendance to “Dare Mighty Things.” McClure is someone who knows a bit about staying active: She was the first woman and first American to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean and to travel over land to the geographic South Pole, skiing 750 miles from the ice shelf to the pole. She chronicled her ocean adventure in her 2009 book, A Pearl in the Storm.

    Jill Scoggins is Director of Communications at UofL's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. She has been at UofL since 2010.