Free-falling around the world

Pat and Alicia Moorehead, 86 and 70

The Skydivers

Pat and Alicia Moorehead have been skydiving all over the world for over forty years. Amid preparations for their next trip - to Australia - they sat still just long enough to tell their story.

Pat: I was always curious. A lot of kids are: climb that fence, go over there, dig in that trash can. In my career I was a firefighter. Back in 1969, several of us firemen decided to go to the local skydiving centre and see what this parachuting was all about. In those days you didn’t do freefall in the first jump. You landed like - kaboom. If someone had told me I’d still be jumping at 86 and have done 6,500 jumps, I would have said, well what have you been drinking, can I have some of that?

Alicia: I grew up in Illinois, the suburbs of Chicago. Everything I’ve done in my childhood has led to what we’re doing now. I was in gymnastics all the way through junior college. That led to yoga and scuba diving and skiing and then skydiving. I travelled to Australia and New Zealand. On the way back to the US I went around the world. I started out with, “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to go to...” I stretched it out for a year and then I ran out of money, so I had to come home. Chicago was too cold for me to live in. So I said, California’s for me.

Pat and I were both on an airplane that flew from California to Mexico for the weekend to skydive.

Pat: We were what I like to call happily single. We were both products of a failed marriage, and we’d said we weren’t going to do that again. We sat down next to each other on the airplane and when it landed, we took a walk on the beach.

Alicia: And that was it.

Alicia wearing a helmet smiling

Pat: I used to think love at first sight was a myth, but it happened for us.

When I turned 60 I created ‘Skydivers Over Sixty (SOS)'. I was just celebrating my birthday with a skydive, but the people I jumped with said we want to have a number, because we’re the first group of ten 60-year olds to do this. I made up some membership cards and then other people heard about it. Pretty soon it took off. Now we have over 2,200 members in SOS and they’re making record skydives of 60-65 year olds. Along the line, someone who turned 70 decided to do that same thing and then jumpers over 80 and jumpers over 90. All under the umbrella of POPS (Parachutists Over Phorty Society), which is the key organisation. And they’re in 27 countries.

Alicia: Last April we made a jump with 24 people over 70. 24 people who made a snowflake in the sky. A world record for that age. I’m proud of that.

Alicia and Pat kissing in a freefall

Pat: I think the reason we’re so healthy is because we’re curious. We’ve travelled to 200 countries. This summer we’re going to be in Kosovo and Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Romania. If we’re driving in a foreign country and we see a road which leads somewhere interesting we go down that road, because you never know what you’re going to find. A number of years ago, we landed at Frankfurt, Germany, and we got on the Autobahn. Alicia said, “Whoops, we’re going in the wrong direction”. I said, “Well, what’s in that direction?” She said “Lichtenstein”. So we went there.

Alicia and Pat holding an open album

What we eat is sparse, we have a vegetable dish in the evening. I make the salad. Every morning we go for a two-mile walk at the local park and nature centre and we walk fast.

Alicia: And we talk.

Pat on a plane wearing a parachute

Pat: My advice - see the world. Do all those things you couldn’t do because you were raising children and working for retirement. Age is not the barrier that some people think - that as they grow older they have to fall into a prescribed or pre-determined role as an older person.

Alicia: Our generation gets to re-write those rules, which is wonderful.

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