Meet Mary Baker, 2022 Spirit of Aging Award Recipient
On March 24, 2022 by Barbara Landeen
Mary Baker, a resident at The Glenn Minnetonka, was honored by LeadingAge Minnesota with the Spirit of Aging Award at LeadingAge Minnesota’s annual Institute & Expo. The Spirit of Aging Award honors an older adult who exemplifies the concept of positive and active aging.
Mary Baker is an incredible individual with a unique story to tell. She defies the traditional stereotypes of aging through her positive attitude and can-do spirit. Despite enduring hardships in her life, Baker has the unique gift of always seeing the world in a positive light. She was a single mother, caring for both her daughter as well as her own aging mother. When her mom was 82 and her daughter was 27, they both died within two days of each other. Since that time, Mary has lived on her own, but never alone.
At her insistence, everyone calls her “Ma Baker.” She said it’s because she sees everyone as her children. Her high energy and fun-spirited nature reach across all boundaries. Baker has a talent for being able to identify the shyest, or the most hurting person in the room, and befriend them. She leaves everyone feeling loved and cared for, regardless of their age.
“There is no better person I can think of whom embodies active and vibrant aging than Mary Baker,” said Shanna Swanson, Senior Housing Portfolio Director for Great Lakes Management, who submitted the nomination. “Knowing her personal story of heartache and loss is precisely what makes it remarkable that she radiates such positivity. What makes Mary so special is the extraordinary inspiration in the seemingly ordinary interactions she has with others around her.”
When Baker was asked how she has gotten through the tough times in her life and what keeps her going, she says, “Because there is more that I want to do for each and every one of you. We have got to just keep going and keep loving.” This continues to be her mantra as she reaches out to the most vulnerable in life.
“Mary brings sunshine wherever she goes, from decorating our hallways with seasonal touches, volunteering in her local church, or going for walks with residents who can’t walk by themselves,” said Cindy Ehlen, Director of Resident Services at The Glenn Minnetonka. “She is also constantly expressing her appreciation to staff for all their hard work—always telling staff what a good job they are doing and how much she loves them. In a time when it is easy to be discouraged, she is our cheerleader and continues to pick us up when we need it the most.”