Dori Gillam prepares to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Dori Gillam of Seattle is proof positive that conquering mountains – all kinds of mountains – is good for you. She climbed Mt. Rainier at age 46 and she and her friends set their sights on climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

But life had other plans. Both her parents became seriously ill and Dori put her life on hold for eight years to act as their caregiver.

“It was a privilege to take care of my parents. It was a huge responsibility but it was a privilege,” says Dori. “They had a wonderful life, no regrets, they said that many times…And then they both passed away in 2008.  Her first, and then within 30 days, he died.”

While Dori says that time is one of her most cherished, the experience left her way out of shape and suffering with herniated discs that required major back surgery. Her formerly physically active lifestyle had slipped away.

But as the years went by, the dream returned. Kilimanjaro still called. She began thinking about her parents’ ‘no regrets’ legacy.

“I had to start at the beginning because I was in very bad shape.” she explained. She began 5:00am workouts at the gym and ran stairs in her neighborhood. She went on mountain hikes. And she worked on her attitude…

“I took 52 cards and wrote wonderful inspirational quotes on them, then sent them to my daughter in New York and had her send me one a week,” Dori explained. She kept the cards taped to her cupboard to keep her inspiration going.

Dori with her fellow climbers at the summit of Kilimanjaro.

Dori with her fellow climbers at the summit of Kilimanjaro.

A few examples: “I don’t stop when I’m tired. I stop when I’m done.” and “Do not reward yourself with food. You are not a dog.”

Finally, Dori was ready, nearly 20 years after the dream was born, to attempt Kilimanjaro. She signed up with RMI Expeditions of Ashford, WA and booked her trip. Now it was on.

She ramped up her training. At 63, she would be the oldest in her group. But last September 8th, she was standing on top of the mountain.

Her advice for achieving your “What’s Next?”

“You need to pull together your plan at any age and stage in your life to figure out ‘how can I make it work? People talk about the glass is half full, glass is half empty. But I kind of think the glass is refillable. So let’s just refill glass!”

If you’d like help in figuring our your own “What’s Next,” join AARP for one of our free Life Reimagined workshops.  Workshops are free, but pre-registration is required.  Find more online.

You can also watch the video of Dori’s story from KING 5 “Evening” here:

Do you have a “Life Reimagined” dream? Learn more and share your story here.