Senior Citizens

Facebook Friends to the Finish

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Runar Gundersen ran past 96th Street and First Avenue in each of his last 36 consecutive New York City Marathons. This year, Gundersen, 63, paused at the intersection and his face lit up.

He smiled despite the pain in his lower back, which still ached, barely five months after spinal surgery. His ankles, battered from nine operations, hurt, too.

But the sight of friends – some of them just digital presences in his life until recently – at the 96th Street aid station buoyed the Norwegian retiree. They gave him water, hugged him, took pictures and cheered him on.

Gundersen went on to complete the marathon in 5:11, six minutes under his 2014 time. He only ran a mile-and-a-half to train for this year’s race.

It marked his 37th finish in the New York City marathon – more than all but three people alive.

“Running is my life,” Gundersen said at Cassidy’s Pub on West 55th Street, hours after the race ended. “And of course I came to meet these fantastic people.”

He was referring to the Dungog Dashers, a 400-strong recreational running group that formed on Facebook after Superstorm Sandy forced the cancellation of the 2012 race.

Gundersen stood up for hugs each time a new batch of friends trickled into the back of the dimly lit bar. He drank a couple pints of Samuel Adams and downed a cheeseburger. Other tired and happy runners surrounded him at the adjoined circular tables, eating chicken potpie and fish and chips.

Gundersen leaned in. He spoke about this year’s race and listened as his friends gave him updates on their lives.

The pub was a long way from Gundersen’s life in Drammen, a port city 27 miles outside of Oslo.

The lifelong bachelor said he loves the freedom of being able to travel and run. He also has plenty of time to spend on the Internet, writing about the New York City Marathon, answering questions from runners and communicating with friends.

“I lived alone all my life. I like the fact that I do anything I want to do,” said Gundersen, a retired senior adviser at Statistics Norway.

Still, Gundersen said he likes his trips to New York more now that he doesn’t spend marathon weekend alone.

“Now that I have so many friends, traveling is different,” he said with a smile. “Now I can go out with friends.”

As the celebration went on, Gundersen’s thoughts turned next year’s race.

“It has become a part of my life. I just have to do it,” he said.

“And I know I will do it as long as I’m able to.”

Helping Mom Finish Strong

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

“I don’t even like running,” said Suzie Flores, 33, of South Orange, N.J. “But it’s a really good feeling setting out to do something that difficult, and then actually finish it.”

Almost everyone in the Flores family has gone running with at least one other member at one point or another. Suzie finished the New York City Marathon five years ago. Suzie’s sister, Rebecca, is an avid runner, having completed two full marathons, in 2006 and 2010. Her husband Bill, 42, ran this year for the third time. So did her brother, David, 36.

But this year, the Flores siblings were most focused on seeing someone else cross the finish line: their mother.

Mary Ann Flores, the 61-year-old matriarch, finished her first New York City marathon, making her the fourth member of the Flores family to participate in the annual event.

She was joined by members of her family for different stretches of the race: Her husband George, 64, accompanied her for several miles in Brooklyn; her eldest daughter Rebecca Austin, 39, joined her later in Queens; and Suzie ran with her in the Bronx.

The matriarch’s family has been involved in her running from day one. When Mary Ann first started running in 2010, her son David ran with her. “David was the one who really got me going,” she said.

“David trains with my mom, I bully her into signing up for races,” Rebecca added.

Mary Ann said she began running as a means of stress relief, and coping with the grief from the loss of a friend. Initially, running was a means to spend time with her loved ones; exercise was just a byproduct. But at the behest of her daughter, Mary Ann entered the marathon lottery.

“I definitely didn’t expect to get in,” she said. “I was floored when I found out, and I had to train a lot harder than I was originally prepared for.”

In July of this year, she suffered from a stress response, an injury similar to severe shin splints. Until a few days ago, she wasn’t able to run without pain. She didn’t do the recommended 20-mile pre-run, but she was able to run 13 miles comfortably.

She made good on her goal to complete the marathon, with help from her family and friends along the way.

“They’ve all been really patient, and I’m really slow,” said Mary Ann.

“We’re probably not the fastest group but we always finish,” David said.



Nursing Home Oversight Eyed

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

Charlie Stewart was looking forward to getting out of the nursing home in time for his 60th birthday. On his planned release day, in late 2012, the Long Island facility instead called Stewart’s wife to say he was being sent to the hospital with a fever.

When his wife, Jeanne, met him there, the stench of rotting flesh made it difficult to sit near her husband. The small wounds on his right foot that had been healing when Stewart entered the nursing home now blackened his entire shin.

“When I saw it at the hospital … I almost threw up,” Jeanne Stewart said. “It was disgusting. I said, ‘It looks like somebody took a match to it.’ ”


Silver Seniors Vie For Gold

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

The 2016 Brooklyn Senior Olympics kicked off with events ranging from swimming to shot put to ping-pong bouts.

State Senator Jesse Hamilton (D –Brooklyn) and St. John’s Seniors Organization President Joyce Bolden turned out to support the 40 seniors, who engaged in fierce competition at St. John’s Recreation Center in Crown Heights.

Bolden recently returned from winning her own gold medal in the Empire State Senior Olympic Games in Cortland, N.Y., and was inspired to start a similar event in Brooklyn. She and Hamilton huddled over the idea, and the Silver Kings and Queens Olympics were born.

A series of preliminary competitions will held at recreation centers each month leading up to the main, culminating event, set for May 11-13 in Brooklyn.

Mark of a Devoted Child

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Caring for Caregivers

Saturday, September 13th, 2014


Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Seniors Walk For Health

Saturday, October 27th, 2012