For 95-year-old Helen Takagi, the answer is a no-brainer. She would like to ride wild and free on the open road on the back of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Her wish was granted Thursday, Dec. 21, thanks to a partnership between Wish of a Lifetime, a Denver-based organization that grants life-enriching wishes to seniors 65 and older, and Brookdale, the nation’s largest owner and operator of senior living communities throughout the country. Brookdale owns Leesburg-based Lake Port Square, where Helen has resided for 14 years.
For Helen, the adventure began at 12:30 p.m. at Leesburg’s Gator Harley-Davidson. Employees dressed her in proper attire—a white vest, black sunglasses, white gloves, a white helmet, and a black scarf.
“I feel like I could go to Mars dressed like this,” a visibly happy Helen said.
She then hopped aboard a 2018 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited driven by Johnny Malik, a sales associate for the company. As he revved up the engine, Helen raised both arms into the air.
“I’m ready to go,” she declared.
And go they did. The 30-minute ride included a scenic view of Lake Harris and the open fields off County Road 44. Johnny also drove her past Lake Port Square, where Helen waved to a crowd of friends who gathered outside to cheer for her.
Once the ride was complete, Helen was already anticipating her next motorcycle ride.
“I’d go again right now if they’d let me,” she said. “There’s nothing like the feeling of wind and the noise from the engine. It’s just you, the bike, and the road.”
Johnny seemed somewhat surprised by Helen’s courageousness.
“There were some parts of the ride where she rode with no hands,” he says. “When I asked her if she wanted to go faster, she said, ‘You bet I do!’”
“Mom has always had an awesome sense of adventure,” Judy says. “I’m thrilled that she had this wish granted at her age. It really touches me to see how much love and caring there is in the world.”
Helen lives each day with passion and purpose, teaching five exercise classes a week at Lake Port Square.
“She has a knack for motivating other seniors to exercise,” says Sharon Thomas, director of resident programs at Lake Port Square. “After a certain age, some people stop living. Helen has never stopped living.”
Now, she’ll be able to gather among friends and share tales about the open road.