Senior Living Resources Lutheran Senior Services
Diving Into Adventure

Diving Into Adventure

This is part of our Story series. Read more LSS Stories.

It was a perfect July day, a warm 85 degrees, no wind – perfect for skydiving as Harold Maness was about to find out. The 92-year-old Maness initially drove to the airfield with the intention of only looking around the skydiving outfit to see if it would be a good place to check one more item off his bucket list. After talking with the instructor, Maness was heading up in a small plane for a tandem skydive.

Maness, a resident at Laclede Groves a Lutheran Senior Services (LSS) Life Plan Community located in Webster Groves, Missouri, got the idea to skydive when he saw President George HW Bush celebrate his 90th birthday by jumping from a plane five years ago. Maness’s first thought was “I can do that.” But he didn’t act on it until a chance meeting last fall with a 91-year-old woman who had just gone skydiving.

“I had been thinking about it and now here someone is right in front of me who has done it,” said Maness. “I promised her I would do it and I finally did.”

There was something else spurring Maness to skydive – his pickleball friends. Maness plays pickleball at various locations around St. Louis five times a week. Many of the younger players (younger being 60 to 70 years old) often tell him how much they look up to him and want to be like him when they reach their 90s. He figured that jumping out of a plane would give them one more reason to want to be like him.

Which brings us back to the airfield where Maness was preparing for his tandem skydive. At 10,500 feet, the instructor, whose oldest jumper before Maness was 85, told Maness that in a moment he would need to pivot to put his feet on a small platform just outside of the door and that once they were set the instructor would push him. Something about hearing that made Maness pause but only for a second.

“Getting out the door was the only part that had me thinking,” explained Maness. “I just didn’t want to flub it up!”

Once he and the instructor were out the door they fell at the speed of 125 miles per hour, but as soon as the chute opened it was a peaceful trip back down to earth. The instructor showed Maness how to maneuver the cords to move left and right and control the chute.

After a smooth landing, Maness’s family laughed, not terribly surprised that their active, positive-minded father and grandfather just jumped out of an airplane. His friends at Laclede Groves were amazed that he actually did it. And those pickleball friends? Well, now even the ones who didn’t say it before want to be like Harold Maness when they turn 90.

“When it comes to aging, it’s all the same question: How can I live longer?” added Maness. “There are 1,000 ways and this is what inspires me to do things that are challenging. It really fits with the LSS mission – Living your life to the fullest.”

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