96-year-old woman sets the pace for 100 laps for Meals on Wheels

Marion Thompson’s son, Nick, set up the fundraising campaign

'Age-Positivity' Could Be the Key to a Long Life

What started as a way for Nick Thompson to keep his 96-year-old mother moving has turned into a campaign to raise funds for Meals on Wheels America.

“Hey Mom, we’re gonna do a lap around the ole high school track here. You ready to go?” he asks his mother, Marion Thompson, in a YouTube video for the channel 100 Laps.

“No,” his mother replies succinctly.

Nick Thompson, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, started the “100 Laps at 96 for Meals on Wheels” campaign with his mother this month. The idea is for each lap you take, you donate that amount.

You can do the laps anywhere — around your dining table, around the neighborhood, or at a track. You can also simply donate. All funds will go to Meals on Wheels America, which combats hunger and food insecurity among older adults.

Participants can log their laps on the campaign website at go.rallyup.com/100lapsfall2023 once they make a profile.

There are also prizes for people who raise the most money and complete the most laps. First-prize winners receive a turtle trophy while the runner-up gets a rabbit trophy. The fundraiser ends on Thanksgiving Day.

The idea of the turtle and rabbit came from the YouTube video. A young woman can be seen running past Marion Thompson on the track as the latter walks at a steady pace with her rollator, which is similar to a walker but has wheels on all legs.

“Unless people do it, then my mom will end up winning both the turtle and the (rabbit), and she doesn’t want either one … But yeah, it’s all about getting people excited,” Nick Thompson told the AJC.

“What I’ve learned is that if I don’t keep walking, I won’t be able to,” the elder Thompson, a former high school history teacher, told the AJC. “I’ll be in a wheelchair. So it’s the incentive: If you keep walking, you can walk.”

According to a study published in Frontiers in Physiology, limitations in mobility are becoming increasingly common in older adults, impacting about 35% of 70-year-old people and most people over 85.

Furthermore, scientists from the National Institute on Aging state that it can be likelier a person will lose some of their mobility as they get older if they do not participate in physical activities or exercise. The institute states that some studies have shown positive results connecting physical activities and exercise to prolonged mobility.

Nick Thompson said he has worked for years to get rollators to Americans. Now, he helps take care of his mother.

“The whole point … is to encourage my mom to do what she wants to do herself, which is keep moving. Everybody, every doctor tells you you’re supposed to keep moving, but they don’t seem to realize that’s good advice until it gets hard, and that’s what we’re trying to tackle — when it gets hard,” Nick Thompson said.

Exercise is important for people of all age groups, Nick Thompson pointed out, but he said the difference for some older people may be motivation.

This is where the Meals on Wheels campaign comes in. Nick Thompson said that by donating to a good cause, his mother can stay motivated.

“When I say we’re going to go walk on the track, she’s not naturally inclined to say, ‘That sounds great.’ She’s just as likely to say ‘I don’t want to’ because it’s not easy, so the Meals on Wheels is something she likes,” Nick Thompson said.

Nick Thompson found his inspiration for his campaign when he learned about the story of 100-year-old British World War II veteran Tom Moore.

Moore raised $40 million for Britain’s National Health Service workers by completing 100 laps around his garden, a feat for which he was knighted by the late Queen Elizabeth II. At that time, the world had been several months into the COVID-19 pandemic, which overwhelmed the NHS.

As of this writing, the younger Thompson and his mother are at eight laps. They typically walk around intersections, his house, or the nearby park. They would like to eventually walk around The Home Depot. Marion has never been inside.

“The chance of getting to be like Capt. Tom seems — I don’t want to say that’s a crazy dream — but it’s not likely, so we’re just trying to have fun,” Nick Thompson said.