Never Too Old

At 95, Edna Mossestad drinks her coffee strong -- eight cups a day. She lives independently with her little dog Cookie. And in summer she still gardens, growing beautiful flowers in Thief River Falls, Minn.

But four years ago, Edna’s active life lost its bloom. She suffered mysterious burning pain in her right foot. At times she wondered if she’d make it back from her mailbox 200 feet away. The pain disrupted her sleep, too.


With help from 71-year-old daughter Sharon Hoglo, Edna went to see Dr. Richard Heinrichs at Sanford Thief River Falls Clinic.

A thorough exam and tests led to the diagnosis: Peripheral Arterial Disease. PAD occurs when plaque buildup causes arteries to harden and narrow, reducing blood flow to the limbs. When PAD develops in the legs, restricted blood flow can’t keep up with the demand.

Dr. Heinrichs referred Edna to Dr. Corey Teigen, interventional radiologist at Sanford Health in Fargo. In many cases, Dr. Teigen is able to perform a minimally invasive procedure that improves circulation and brings rapid relief.

Says Sharon: “We went to Fargo hoping a stent could be placed in the artery and the problem would be solved, but it turned out Mom’s blockage wasn’t appropriate for a stent. Dr. Teigen suggested an alternative for pain relief.”

He recommended Edna walk one mile a day, but not on a treadmill. A stationary surface is safer for elderly people with possible balance issues. “I thought it was worth a try,” says Sharon. “Mother’s reaction was ‘If that’s what it takes, that’s what I’ll do.’”

But where?

Sharon, a retired social worker and nursing home administrator from Thief River Falls, stepped up. She wanted to do everything possible to help her mother succeed. They were instructed to start slowly with short distances, gradually building to one mile a day five days a week.

First they tried walking on sidewalks.

“The unevenness was a problem. Plus we got stones in our shoes,” says Sharon. Both women swear by penny-loafers. Sharon has two pairs -- brown and black; Edna has black.

Next they tried the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Sharon chuckles when she recalls the result.

“There’s a good-sized drop from the upper-level walking track down to the center floor,” says Sharon. “Looking down really bothered my mother.”

Finally they decided to check out the Sanford Thief River Falls Wellness Center. It came highly recommended by Sharon’s 81-year-old husband, Bill, who’d been exercising there for a year.

“The staff was wonderful!” says Sharon. “When we explained what we needed, they got busy measuring hallways. They’re a great bunch -- so encouraging and willing to help.”

The staff designed a safe, short route that required 24 times around for one mile. Edna and Sharon began with three slow rounds, building up to one mile within two months. “We were so proud when we reached that goal!” says Sharon.

Developing a routine

In their four years of walking one mile a day, Sharon and Edna have developed a routine they both like:

  • Periodic stops. Every six rounds, Edna rests while Sharon does a few strengthening exercises. She’s familiar with the Wellness Center equipment because of knee replacement surgery two years ago. Physical therapist Kim Rosendahl helped her rehabilitate.
  • Coffee break at the half-mile point. “Mother loves the coffee there,” says Sharon.
  • No rushing. “I’d say we spend an hour and a half at the Wellness Center each day,” says Sharon. “If we miss a day, we make it up on Saturday.” The Wellness Center is open Monday through Friday, plus Saturday morning.
  • All-around results

    Within a year, Edna experienced benefits:

  • Significantly decreased foot pain. Today she easily walks to and from her mailbox.
  • Sleeping through the night.
  • Connecting with others at the Wellness Center. “Mom’s getting to be very social,” says Sharon. “She’s lived in Thief River since 1945 and knows a lot of people.”
  • Though her goal was to help her mother, Sharon has experienced important health benefits, too:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Less arthritis pain and stiffness -- and a decreased need for medication
  • Improved blood-sugar level -- no more pre-diabetes
  • “If I can keep my mom active, that’s good for her -- and good for me, too. We really do enjoy our walking!” says Sharon.

    Walking wisdom

    If you’re ready to start a walking program, first check with your doctor. Then consider two great tips from Sharon:

  • Find a partner. “It’s a lot more fun,” she says.
  • Start slowly.
  • “You might think you can’t walk because you ache, but that’s exactly why you should walk,” says Sharon. “I was surprised at the improvements in my mom and myself.”

    Let Edna and Sharon inspire you! Even if you’re younger than 95, call your nearest Sanford Wellness Center.

    Posted Date: December 2012

    Never Too Old

    What could walking one mile a day do for you? For 95-year-old Edna Mossestad and her 71-year-old daughter Sharon Hoglo, the discipline brought surprising results!