06 June 2018

Vernie Burkett, a resident at Brookdale Missoula Valley, hasn’t let her age stop her from doing anything in life, big or small. After beating breast cancer, she decided it was time to conquer a few other bucket list items. Burkett, a 72-year-old warrior, made the courageous decision to tackle her biggest challenge yet – learning how to swim.

As a young girl in South Dakota, Burkett and her siblings were playing on a sandbar in a river when it gave way. Unable to swim, the fear of drowning became a harsh reality from childhood into adulthood. From that point forward, she never took swim lessons or joined in on summer fun at family outings.

Fueled with the fighting spirit that helped her beat cancer, Burkett decided it is time to conquer her fear and jump into a new phase of life. Wish of a Lifetime, along with Brookdale Senior Living, are helping Burkett learn how to swim.  They are sending Burkett to the YMCA in Missoula for private swimming lessons for the first time in her life. She started lessons in May and will continue through the end of June.

“I loved my first lesson. It is very hard for me to do the turning on my side to take an extra breath but I am working on it,” said Burkett about her progress so far.

Burkett hopes that her wish will inspire others to learn something new, despite their age, and encourage other older adults to seize opportunities when they come along.  

“People always expect older ladies to be boring and lazy. I don't like being lazy and boring. I want to be adventurous just like I was 20 years ago.”

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