By 2030, 20 percent of all Kansans are expected to be age 65 and older. Lawrence is already attracting a growing number of retirees, people with a connection to the university, those with children living here and others who just seem to enjoy the community. Can Lawrence capitalize on this growing population, and at what cost?
Bonner Springs With a little nudge and a jump, Carol and Jim Geary began free-falling through the sky.
The air whistled in their ears and the ground below grew larger and larger as the seconds passed; with a single jerk, the free fall stopped and the world went silent.
The husband and wife slowly floated to the ground, taking in the sights along the way.
"It was so peaceful and quiet," Carol said, describing her slow descent back to Earth. "It's so wonderful. You don't feel like you're moving at all."
This maiden sky-diving voyage was the adventure of choice for the Gearys to celebrate their 49 years of marriage.
On April 4, 1959, Carol and Jim were married after meeting at Juniata College in Pennsylvania, and together they began a life of offbeat adventures that would take them around the globe.
"It's not something we think about being different," Jim said of the couple's adventurous nature.
"When opportunity comes along we take advantage of it," Carol said. "We do it for the experiences of doing something different, learning something different. We're not old sticks-in-the-mud."
That is something they've proven time and time again. From swimming near the Arctic Circle to mountain climbing near Machu Picchu, the Gearys have tried it all. In Colorado they recently went zip-lining, which is a means of traversing via hand-held pulley and a cable suspended on an incline, and they stayed a night at the Ice Palace in Quebec, whose name describes the material of which the hotel is made.
Some of their adventures they are most proud of include Carol making 10 laps around a race track in a race car at 150 miles per hour - a birthday gift from Jim last year. Or Jim's numerous missionary trips to Venezuela and his work with Habitat for Humanity.
This newest sky-diving adventure idea came from a neighbor who's a sky diver. Jim liked the idea, and after seeing the movie "The Bucket List," which follows two older men completing goals before they die, he was convinced it was the right way to celebrate their years together. Jim said he brought the idea to Carol and was surprised by her lack of argument against it.
"It just said, 'Oh, that might be fun,'" Carol recalled.
The two chose to do a tandem jump for their first time, which meant that a trained professional was strapped to each of them and handled such tasks as deploying the parachute.
"It was a whole new experience," Jim said. "And fear was not part of it."
"It wasn't for us at least," Carol said. "I wasn't worried at all about it."
When describing the experience, the two agreed that the falling didn't feel like falling, but rather a "sense of movement." Carol said the feeling was hard to describe but that the word that comes to mind was "peaceful." She said it was a great way to see the Earth and the sites around them.
"It just proved to me that as long as we're alive, we'll still experience excitement and fulfillment in the things we get to do," Jim said. "It proves that 73 is not an age barrier to how you feel or what you do."
Carol said she likes the idea of just knowing that she's capable of doing so many adventurous activities.
"I think a lot of people have a misconception of what is old age," she said. "Really, age doesn't have any limits if you have the right frame of mind and good health."
It's that frame of mind that has not only allowed the couple to take on these adventures but to also keep their marriage strong. While they agreed there were no rules to ensure a happy marriage, sticking by each other's side and forgiveness were important factors.
"There's no secret to it," Jim said. "We argue and discuss and yell and love each other the normal amount."
Carol said just the other day she was thinking about how lucky she was that both of them were so willing to try new things. She said in many couples, one person wants to be adventurous and the other doesn't, but the Gearys' common interests have created a strong bond.
As for their 50th wedding anniversary, the couple is already considering several options that will top sky diving. From visiting Antarctica, scuba diving, a submarine ride and dog sledding, the couple have many plans to keep themselves plenty busy.