Helen Miller, a beloved Face Aging MN advocate and blogger, was passionate about living an active and happy life as she got older. Though Helen passed away in June, her legacy and lessons continue to inspire her friends and family, including her daughter-in-law, Kristi Danielson.
She remembers Helen as the front desk secretary at her junior high school and always admired Helen’s kindness. In her later years, Kristi remembers Helen’s strong determination to stay healthy and active as she got older.
“If there’s something that she wanted done, she went and got it,” says Kristi. “She took care of herself and stayed so actively involved.”
At 60, Kristi is trying embrace her senior years with the same wisdom and perseverance that Helen demonstrated. “She wasn’t going to give up, and that’s what keeps me going,” says Kristi.
Kristi became a member of Helen’s family when she reconnected with Dave as an adult while she was working as a dental assistant in Saint Paul. They met at a work event and married a couple of years later and had two daughters. After 17 years working in dentistry, Kristi decided to spend more time with her daughters and started her own cleaning business.
“If the girls were sick, they could come with me until I finished cleaning,” Kristi recalled.
Her business came to an end in 2004 when Kristi had a water skiing accident that led to her suffering from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). CRPS is a chronic pain condition that affects limbs and other parts of the body typically after an injury, and the highest incidence occurs in women who are 60 -70 years old, according to the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association (RSDSA).
“My purpose in life is to get people to understand this condition and how to get help,” says Kristi, explaining that the condition is often misdiagnosed among seniors. On November 5, the 35W bridge will be lit orange to bring awareness to CRPS.
Like Kristi, Helen was a strong advocate for CRPS awareness, donating her funeral’s non-profit funds to RSDSA, which is dedicated to supporting and educating people with the chronic pain condition.
As a former personal trainer, Kristi understands the importance of exercise as people get older. “I go to the YMCA a lot,” says Kristi. “But let me tell you, the seniors that go are so impressive, and they encourage me.”
Gym memberships can be expensive for older adults, so Kristi recommends seniors look into SilverSneakers, a free fitness program provided by many insurance plans.
“A lot of people don’t realize that Medicare will pay their gym membership,” Kristi says. “It’s so important, even with little weights in the beginning.”
Further, Kristi encourages seniors to stay connected and involved in their community through volunteer work. She remembers how even in her 90s, Helen dedicated her time to help others.
“Be involved and help in any way,” Kristi says, “even if it’s just listening.”