German student Eugen Merher expressed what many cannot describe in words in his rejected Adidas advertisement project: the desperate want to recapture the feeling of achievement in youthful passions when held back by an aging body.

As a sociotherapist myself, the anger, grief, sorrow, shame, among other feelings felt by Merher’s elderly character, is a common one.

Break Free

Photo: Eugen Merher.

Every one of my clients in my continuing care retirement community comes with more than packed suitcases and furniture. Behind them, and upon them, there is the weight of a vibrant history of personal passions.

Merher shares the story of an aging runner, feeling trapped in his nursing home confines, with only the memory of his glory days as a champion. And it doesn’t help when the charge nurse and nurse assistants toss up his expressions of want to get back on the track to mere dementia.

His beaten up Adidas shoes represent a legacy of hard work, determination, failure and achievement. His shoes represent who he is at one time, who he still is today: always a runner.

In over a decade in this profession, it has been my, and my colleagues’, goal to ensure that individual passions continue long after a person has settled into retirement.

No runner should ever have to hear a “last” starter pistol, “last” jump of a hurdle, “last” breach of the finish line.

It is my job to maintain a continuity of personal identity and passions all the way to end of life. There’s no point to living a long life if you’re not allowed to live what you’ve always lived.

Thank you, Eugen, for this beautiful work of art that expresses why we do what we do in elder life services.