ICAA Champions: Dee Kirkpatrick


In 2011, the International Council on Active Aging® launched ICAA’s Changing the Way We Age® Campaign to promote positive views of aging and the value of active aging at every turn. ICAA Champions are individuals and organizations that act as role models and advocates. This blog celebrates these champions.


Dee Kirkpatrick, a “semi-retired” insurance agent living in Tyler, Texas, leads a full, active life that includes faith, fun and family. Kirkpatrick, a widow, has “two sons, six grandchildren and one great-grandson,” with another great-grandchild expected any day. She moved to Atria Copeland in Tyler two years ago, she says, “to be a little closer to my sons and their families.”


Atria Copeland is owned and operated by Atria Senior Living, a Louisville, Kentucky-based organization with communities in 27 states across the continental United States. Atria embraces active living and the ICAA Champions program in its communities. At Atria Copeland, Engage Life Director Aerial Holte encouraged Kirkpatrick to become the community’s “Active Aging Champion.”


Kirkpatrick views active aging as “living life to its fullest,” something she models for others every day. As a Christian, she believes God has a plan for her life—one that includes both well-being and service.


Living well includes “participating in fitness and yoga classes, line dance, clog, and country western and ballroom dancing,” Kirkpatrick reveals. In addition, the avid exerciser walks 2.5 miles at least four times weekly. Her other favorite activities include volunteering, sewing, crafts, painting with watercolors, reading, bridge and clowning.


How did Kirkpatrick become a clown? “Two years ago, I joined a clown class,” she shares. “I like to entertain children by making balloon animals and using props that help illustrate spiritual truths to children. Their favorite is a story about the ‘Prodigal’ Chicken.”


Travel also plays a role in Kirkpatrick’s life and service. “I have been fortunate to travel to many different places,” she says. Examples include a nine-day mission trip to Mombasa, Kenya, in 2012, and a group visit to Macau, China, earlier this year “to distribute Bibles and help paint a local church. We also assisted an American missionary doctor in one of his outreach ministries,” she adds.


To encourage her peers to live well and see aging more positively, Kirkpatrick invites them to join her in having fun. “I’ve enlisted different people to be ‘DeeDee’ the Clown’s helper with the balloons and the children,” she explains, “as well as someone to be one of Santa’s elves when I play ‘Ms. Claus’ during the Christmas season.”


When it comes to changing the way we age, Kirkpatrick “strongly believes” that older adults should not isolate themselves by interacting only with older people. As someone who has mentored young people for years, she believes that “being with young people keeps your mind more alert and helps them with some practical life skills.” According to Kirkpatrick, a mentor can also provide a young person with “an objective sounding board. The young need a caring, nonjudgmental listener,” she observes. “Older adults can pass on our rich American heritage, patriotism, and moral and spiritual truths.”