A leader in fitness, advocacy and community

Joe Pichler is a lifelong Alaskan. His parents Norman Pichler and Barbara Henry were true pioneers in Alaska in many ways. Norman was involved in the Alaska Mountain Rescue group and avalanche control during the many years he was a ski patrolman at Alyeska. Barbara was a passionate advocate for improved health care, education and equal rights for people with physical and intellectual disabilities.

Joe is retired from more than 30 years of employment at the Sheraton in Anchorage. He is the proud father of a middle school educator, currently works for Special Olympics Alaska, and is a diehard Seattle Seahawks fan. Joe has an intellectual disability. He has spent his life advocating for himself and others with intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD) in Alaska and across the world.

He has successfully trained and competed in sports on a local, national and international level his entire life and is now working hard to stay fit by working out three times a week with a trainer and participating in community walks and runs. Joe is known across the state for avidly promoting inclusion as well as health and wellness for all Alaskans, including seniors with and without intellectual or developmental disabilities.

People with disabilities experience more health disparities than people without disabilities. This is particularly true for the 18,000 Alaskans with intellectual disabilities. As Alaskans with IDD age they begin to encounter functional declines associated with the aging process. These include predictable patterns of physical changes such as declines in balance, strength, endurance and loss of bone density.

Joe has seen himself change as he has gotten older. "Life just gets better," he says. "I have to work harder to stay healthy. Support from family and friends is important. We (people with IDD) go through the same things that other seniors do. We want the same things - to be healthy and happy, have fun and stay independent."

Third Annual Disability and Aging Summit, Oct. 12-14

On October 12, 13 and 14, Joe and The Alaska Disability and Aging Coalition, a recently formed group of statewide leaders in the fields of aging, disabilities, medical and health promotion, will conduct its third annual Disability and Aging Summit. This educational event will include topics such as supported decision-making, self-determination, IDD and hospice care, inclusive senior fitness programming, indigenous aging, well-being among Alaska Natives, and much more.

Joe serves in an advising capacity to the Alaska Disability and Aging Coalition. Additionally he is on the national committee for Special Olympics and Aging Athletes. He will be up front and present during the entire summit. Please come by the Senior Voice table to have Joe personalize your copy of the October edition.

For more information, please contact Nicolle Egan, at nicolle@specialolympicsalaska.org or 907-222-7625 ext 629.

Nicolle Egan is the vice president/COO for Special Olympics Alaska.