Share Your Legacy: Entertaining the Elderly with a PhD in Fun

This post was written by Chris Eatheron, Director of Operations for Twin Cities Physicians

As Director of Operations for Twin Cities Physicians (TCP), my role is non-medical. From my perspective, I cannot help but enjoy the care that we provide to our elderly population. Because the human condition is so complex, I find it interesting how things that are outside of our control can have a wide range of effects on our mood for the day or even longer. Depending on the person, a comment by a help technician on the phone can start the day off to a good or bad start. This is why I always direct staff to have a smile on their voices. I always want TCP to be a reason people smile. Human minds are meant to learn and strive to share. Learning and sharing is human nature.

Even though I am non-medical, I have decided that I, too, can help our elderly to exercise the mind. The benefits of entertaining interaction are like medicine for the soul. When I was a young man, my grandpa was scary and grumpy. One day he asked me to show him how to use the cassette tape deck in his car. I reluctantly showed him how to use this very simple and basic stereo unit. It took all of 15 minutes. That 15 minutes changed our relationship from there on out. We began a journey of learning and sharing with each other that created a bond that was, in the end, unlike any other I had to that point. This time in my life was the defining moment when I began to enjoy and understand how to have positive interaction with the elderly.

Chris Eatherton, Director of Operations at Twin Cities Physicians, on a horse as a teenager

My grandfather passed when I was 18. We only got a good six years of quality relationship-building. He was very influential in sharing with me the horse training skills that kept me alive during some very precarious scenarios I encountered with those amazing animals. It became like a drug for me to tame the wildest stallions with the worst reputation. It is an amazing feeling to communicate with animals without the benefit of a spoken or written language. Through touch, tone of voice, eye-contact, and body language, you develop a relationship with boundaries and a very simple and yet complex set of rules. Paying attention to details for both the horse and trainer can make or break you. The closest way to describe this technique is “spiritual interaction.” These same techniques can be used with most humans, even those who have lost or never had the ability to use language.

Ultimately, the adrenaline junkie in me led to a very exciting and eclectic path. I flew thousands of flights and countless hours as a hang glider pilot and instructor. I taught myself to windsurf and I also instructed that sport. I still to this day love photography and technology. This incredible life journey has given me a gift that I can now share with our elderly population to stimulate their minds. The hope is to kick start the natural human desire to continue to learn and not become stagnant, lonely and depressed.

Eatherton hang gliding

When I moved to Minnesota from Colorado in October of 2017, I made the commitment to TCP to find ways to connect to our elderly population. Because I am a Tesla enthusiast, I started hosting a Tesla event for assisted living communities for the entertainment value as well as to promote the fine services that TCP has to offer. This program entails a 30-minute presentation and then I give rides to all who dare. There is nothing like giving a 90+-year-old a ride in this amazing technology. There are a lot of moving parts to this program that have to come together to make it happen. Talking Tesla into letting me take a vehicle worth upwards of $150,000 over two nights to give these elders the ride of a lifetime is pretty amazing when you think about it. These events that I do are well attended, so getting all of the people that want rides in and out of the car can be challenging, but well worth it. There are a lot of unprovoked hugs and kisses on the cheek! The aftermath of this event goes on for days – they tell their families, they talk about it over lunch and breakfast, etc. The most enjoyable thing to me during these events is the open discussion after the presentation. It is incredibly fun to have the questions coming at me, and it is during these moments where I am reminded that we often underestimate the intelligence of the elderly. I then tell them that we were all told by our parents that the sky is the limit, but we have now proven that it is not the sky that is the limit, it is our imagination that limits us. We then have a discussion on how this autonomous sustainable form of transportation technology can be used in the future. The collective intelligence of people in a crowd, bouncing ideas around can be very inspirational and informative. This opportunity can spark relationships far beyond the conversation of the moment. Good memories and smiles are inflicted, all sponsored by TCP.

From my eclectic past, I will be developing many more presentations on different subjects and I will be taking these presentations to the communities we serve. It feels like I have a Ph.D. in fun! It is really my way of giving back to the elderly population that has given so much to us as a society. Check out the video to see some of my entertaining rides.