Skydiving seniors from Colorado Springs prove it’s never too late for an adventure

The oldest in the crew was 91, the youngest a mere girl of 76. They say they hope their story shows their fellow seniors there's nothing they can't do.
Published: Dec. 16, 2022 at 11:05 AM MST|Updated: Dec. 16, 2022 at 11:20 AM MST
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Whether you’re 9 or 99, it’s always the right age to have an adventure!

Fran Capritta, the executive director for the Palisades at Broadmoor Park says she subscribes to that mantra.

“You’re never too old to do anything, and my folks that live in my building, they prove that to me every single day,” she told 11 News.

But she never imagined she’s be watching some of her seniors parachute down from the sky.

“I’ve been more of the mind always, ‘Hey, if you want to learn belly dancing, let’s learn belly dancing!’ Skydiving never crossed my mind!”

But then a couple of months ago, she learned one of her residents had a certain item on her bucket list.

“We heard Julie [Templin, a Palisades resident] had a bucket list item. And so, back in the summer -- Julie is a retired nurse -- we decided as a gift for Nurses Day to gift her this experience. And it kind of spread from there, because other residents were like, ‘I want to go, I want to go.’

“A few months ago, we had actually taken a group of residents rock climbing, and that kind of started it, it was a downhill slide from there as far as, ‘What else can we do?’” Capritta said with a chuckle.

Next thing she knew, she was driving 76-year-old Templin, a 78-year-old with Parkinsons, and a 91-year-old to Colorado Mountain Skydiving in Penrose.

“Fran drives us down there and we’re driving and just chit-chatting about what’s going on, and she says, ‘You know, my stomach’s in a knot! I’m taking these seniors to jump out of a plane!’” Templin recalled, laughing at the memory.

“Why it was on our bucket list, I don’t know,” deadpanned Jeff Dunne, one of the three who made the trip.

“We heard about it the night before that Julie was going to go, and my son looked at me and said, ‘Why don’t you go?’ So I said okay. It was that easy!” resident Don Downs said.

The trio boarded the small plane while their executive director nervously watched.

“I wanted to vomit. Yes, I wanted to vomit. To be honest with you, I was having little mini heart attacks the entire time,” Capritta said of what it was like watching her seniors fly up.

Meanwhile, the trio said they were in good hands with their skydiving team.

“They were really pros who knew what they were doing,” Downs said.

Dunne told 11 News as the moment to jump out of the plane approached, the nerves started to hit.

“That was one of those where initially you weren’t scared, but then when you’re the first in line getting ready to jump out of plane, you’re saying, ‘Why did I do that?’”

While Downs said he was more fascinated by what was about to happen.

“I was looking forward to finding out what the air going by at 130 mph was like,” Downs said. “I was really looking forward to the whole thing.”

When the time came ...

“You didn’t have to do anything. That guy handled me like a rag doll. He just tossed me out,” Downs said as he and Templin mimicked being thrown.

“I asked my buddy if we could do a flip [gestures]. And he said, ‘No problem!’ We’re out the plane and all of a sudden the ground is down there! And up and free-falling. It was like flying, like a bird,” Templin said.

“We fell, I think it was ... we dropped at a speed, like Don said, 125, 135 mph. [Laughs] Why wouldn’t everyone want to do that?” Dunne told 11 News.

All as Capritta nervously watched from the ground.

“And then it just so happened there was a conference call going on with our entire operations team from our home office -- while they were skydiving,” she said. “Just timing lined up that way. So I was on the call, half listening, watching my folks jump out of an airplane, and then I hit the Zoom button so they could all see the camera and see the first one land, and it was just amazing, the uproar that went off at the home office.”

Dunne, who has Parkinson’s, said landing proved the only physically challenging portion for him.

“My legs were ... I don’t think I could have lifted them any farther. [My tandem partner] said, ‘Get ‘em up!’ And I said, ‘Buddy, this is as good as it’s going to get.’”

All agreed the experience was everything they hoped for.

“Right up there -- most exciting!” Templin said of where it ranked in all the fun things she’s ever done in her life.

“It just was interesting. The way your face is up here (gestures) because of the wind blow. I was just looking down at the ground and thinking it looked like a long ways away. It was just interesting! Just ‘zooooop,’ no big deal,” Downs said.

For Capritta:

“Just seeing their smiling faces -- Jeff, all he could say literally for like five minutes after he landed was ‘wow.’ That was the only word that would come out of his mouth, ‘wow.’ Just seeing their faces and knowing I had a part in making that happen --

“It was one of the best experiences of my career.”

Inspired by residents like Templin, Downs and Dunne, the Palisades at Broadmoor Park has started an adventure club for its seniors.

“We’ve always talked about how there’s so many things that people don’t ever think about when it comes to our senior population, and we’ve started kind of looking into those things. So it just kind of turned into a thing, and so now we’ve made a whole club around it. Our whole company is kind of jumping on board and seeing what other adventures we can come up with, but we’re the pioneers, and that’s the exciting thing about it,” Capritta told 11 News.

Next up? The club hopes to go whitewater rafting, skiing and ziplining!

Templin, Dunne and Downs hope their story inspires others to jump outside the box.

“I think it’s wonderful. It hopefully shows some our fellow senior citizens that really isn’t anything you shouldn’t or couldn’t do,” Dunne said.

“Hang in there as long as you can!” Downs added.

“And we better do it now!” Templin said.