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Can You See Yourself Skydiving at 86?

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenSeptember 18, 2012

Every once in awhile you hear a story that makes you smile or do a double-take. In this case, 86-year-old Harriet Rocco inspires with her love of flight—that is, free fallin’ flight. Even Tom Petty would be impressed by this silver-haired granny’s fulfillment of her lifelong dream to go skydiving.

Skydiving Harriet CollageHarriet Rocco, a Village at Waterman Lake resident, defied the ageism stereotype as she jumped out of a plane not once—but twice—in eastern Connecticut. This adventurous lady has had aspirations of flight since she was a young girl, and even used to practice by jumping off her garage roof with an umbrella in Oklahoma. “This was a lot more fun,” she said. “It was glorious.”

Harriet went skydiving, in tandem, with Walter Machalick, an instructor for Connecticut Parachutists. She was the oldest woman Machalick had taken through the skies.

A Little Perspective: Sage Wisdom or Daredevil for Life?

When you hear stories such as Harriet’s, you begin to wonder whether she is one of those rare individuals who has things figured out. Why do we have to be defined by our age or status? Why can’t we do things outside of the box—or outside of the plane and falling at great speeds from 40,000 feet—for that matter? No matter the answer, Harriet is, for sure, a rare gem of an individual living life to its fullest. Maybe a combination of excitement, aspirations and new life adventures are what keeps our hearts’ young and our minds’ engaged. Research has shown that stimulation and happiness definitely help act as a fountain of youth, after all.

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In the plane, on the way up to her jump destination, photographer Alex Kelly asked Harriet,
“How well do you know Walt?”
“I just met him,” she replied.
“And you’re going to trust your life to him?” asked Alex.
“He was recommended,” replied Harriet, smiling calmly.

Once an Adventurer, Always an Adventurer: Skydiving Harriet

What is the most exciting thing you’ve done in life? Did it help to get the adrenaline pumping? Or what is the most amazing senior story you’ve witnessed? We’d love to hear in the comments below.

Dana Larsen
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Dana Larsen
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