Eight years ago, at age 90, Gladys Winn developed a coffee habit. As part of her physical therapy routine following hip replacement surgery, Palo Alto Medical Foundation orthopedist James Hartford, M.D., encouraged Gladys to walk outdoors. So she began making regular treks from her Eichler home in Palo Alto’s Green Meadow subdivision to nearby Peet’s Coffee. There, she sips coffee and enjoys fierce games of Robber Rummy with friends or her daughters, Arlene Winn and Kathy Winn Rider.
We love the philosophy of care at PAMF.
“Everyone gives me gift cards for Peet’s — I have nine in my drawer right now,” Gladys says. “I don’t walk there anymore, but my hip is the best-working part of my body these days.”
Gladys credits her current mobility and excellent overall health to her physicians at PAMF, where she has received care for 89 of her 98 years. The list of doctors who have cared for Gladys in her lifetime mirrors the roster of PAMF’s founding physicians: Russell Lee, M.D., Blake Wilbur, M.D., Edward Roth, M.D., Esther Clark, M.D. Satisfied with everything PAMF offered, she stayed with the organization as she and her husband, A.J. Pursley “Perk” Winn, started a family and navigated life together.
The Winns’ older daughter, Kathy, began seeing O. Ralph Tanner, M.D., a preeminent ophthalmologist, for lazy eye at age 4. “Dr. Tanner had just presented at a big medical conference on the technique of patching the strong eye to improve the lazy eye,” Kathy recalls. “Now this is a standard treatment, but at the time it was brand new. By high school, I didn’t have to wear glasses.”
Secrets of a Long Life
As a couple, Gladys and Perk led very active lives. Perk played tennis into his 90s, and the two traveled the world together. “At 80 years old, my parents were touring Europe as if they were in their 40s, climbing to the top of cathedrals like tourists half their age,” Arlene says.
“Eventually, we thought it might be safer to accompany our parents and take care of all the logistics for them, so Arlene and I became their traveling companions,” Kathy adds. “We visited Europe extensively, as well as Iran, French Polynesia, the Caribbean, Central America, Africa, Hong Kong, Japan and many other places as a family.”
Perk died in 2011, at age 94, just a few days shy of the couple’s 70th anniversary. Yet today, the entire family continues to live with optimism and joy at their core.
Although Gladys stopped driving at 90, around the same time she began walking to Peet’s, she still keeps her driver’s license current. A few years back, whenever she wasn’t touring the world, she would try to catch her favorite singer, Neil Diamond, in concert. Her obsession is so strong that a family member presented her with a personalized license plate that reads “NEIL NUT.” And despite having a wall full of family photos, she jokes that her most cherished photo is an autographed one from Diamond.
Another of Gladys’s life passions has been playing the piano. She started at age 5 and was trained as a classical pianist. As a young girl, she played in many recitals in the Bay Area, sometimes giving solo performances. Then as an adult, she taught piano in her home and played at the Palo Alto Methodist Church.
Gladys no longer plays, but the grand piano she’s had since she was 21 still has a prominent place in her living room, serving as a constant reminder of her love of classical music. Her granddaughter, Elizabeth Rider, inherited Gladys’s musical talent, and whenever Elizabeth visits, the first thing she does is play the piano.
“Gladys is full of joy and gives so much joy to other people that it comes back to her,” says Jennifer Gillett, M.D., Gladys’s internist for the last 13 years. “She takes really good care of herself and is always dressed to the nines. I know she is not feeling well if she has not put on lipstick.”Gladys says her secret to a long life is laughing a lot and just saying “whatever.” She happily goes wherever her daughters lead her. Arlene and Kathy have not lived in California since they left for college, but they oversee their mother’s healthcare at PAMF from a distance when they cannot be with her.
“We email her doctors and ask questions about her medications no matter where in the world we are,” Arlene explains. “For a brief time, she developed medication-induced diabetes and had to go on insulin, and we managed the entire adjustment to insulin through the data shared online.” She chalks up this capability to the overall excellent care offered by PAMF.
“We are building in steps to have people meet us where they need us, which might not be at a clinic,” says Dr. Gillett, referring to managing parts of patients’ care with online tools or over the phone. But visiting with Gladys in her office is always a treat. “Whenever I see Gladys on my schedule for the day it picks me up because she always makes me feel good,” Dr. Gillett adds.
Coordinated Care in a Multispecialty Network
According to Dr. Gillett, staying active has helped Gladys remain mobile and vibrant. But when necessary, Dr. Gillett can refer her to any PAMF specialist she may require, such as Dr. Hartford, who performed her hip replacement, and Noman Khan, M.D., who operated on Gladys’s back in 2006.
“Back surgery felt like a big deal to us, so we asked Mom if she wanted to get a second opinion,” Kathy recalls. “Her response was ‘PAMF always has the best doctors; why would I want a second opinion?’”
Along with serving Gladys, Dr. Khan also repaired Arlene’s knee after she injured it playing tennis earlier this year. “I was in California helping Mom, and I felt something pop while playing,” she says. “Amazingly, Dr. Khan fit me in right away and had me scheduled for surgery within the week. PAMF has been incredible for our entire family.”
Collaboration between specialists and primary care doctors is a cornerstone of care at PAMF and Sutter Health, Dr. Gillett notes. “Immediately after a patient sees a specialist, I have access to the summary of the visit, and sometimes I receive a personal phone call from that physician,” she says. “In Gladys’s case, I communicate with her daughters by email and phone so they can be intimately involved in her care without having to travel to the Bay Area to have one-on-one conversations with me.”
Gladys knows Dr. Gillett can handle any question or concern she may have. She connects to her My Health Online account from her iPad—that is, when she’s not streaming Netflix or FaceTiming with her daughters and granddaughter. “We love the philosophy of care, with the umbrella approach to cover all our needs,” Arlene says. “The quality of healthcare is phenomenal.”
To commemorate her 98th birthday this year, Gladys welcomed friends and family to her home, just as she has so many times before. Lipstick on, she was delighted to celebrate her continued health with her daughters and friends by her side. While opening her birthday cards — each one with a Peet’s Coffee gift card attached — Gladys whispered to her dearest girlfriend, Ernie, “this is a perfect day.”