Back in Action: David Severson's Remarkable Comeback as a PT
Unretirement is becoming a prevalent trend. Older professionals are finding new avenues to pursue their passions and maintain a sense of fulfillment. In the first of a series of interviews, we delve into the inspiring stories and motivations driving experienced physical therapists back to their field.
Let’s meet David Severson, one of our distinguished PT elderpreneurs in the Bay Area who has logged over 200 visits with Luna:
Go ahead and tell us a little about your background and how long you've been working as a physical therapist.
I graduated from physical therapy school at the University of North Dakota in 1971, so I’ve been a physical therapist for 52 years.
Could you elaborate on your earlier experiences after completing your education and how they shaped your career?
Earlier in my career, I worked for the Easterseal Society, treating outpatients. I also did preventive work in industrial medicine in early Silicone Valley, where I worked in a clinic that took care of patients who primarily were on-the-job injuries working in electronic firms. So, I did a lot of preventive classes on back injury prevention, posture, and cardiovascular fitness. That’s when I first got into preventive medicine [in the 1970s].
I was in private practice from 1980 to 2016. I retired after that for a while, and I did some volunteer work for the Senior Games, previously known as the Senior Olympics.
It's interesting that you took on volunteer work. Can you tell us about your motivation for getting involved?
I developed an interest in senior fitness during my career. I worked in outpatient orthopedics with an independent physical therapy practice, taking care of a wide range of patients —from athletes to Medicare patients to total joint replacements.
I worked to maximize their function, particularly senior patients, helping them get in good shape. I was really interested in that, so after I retired, I got involved in the Senior Games. My role involved fitness assessment for athletes, but I was also a participant.
I truly enjoyed interacting with patients and missed it after retirement, so that’s why I started doing some volunteer work and later began working for Luna.
At what point did you join Luna and discover their platform?
Around 2018, I contacted Luna when they were still a startup. There was an office in Menlo Park, California, close to where I live. At the time, I thought I would be interested in seeing patients, but then COVID hit, and my wife had some health issues.
Although I reintroduced myself earlier last year, in 2022, I had already initiated the process of wanting to sign up really early — I may have even been one of the first therapists to be interested.
What are your thoughts on the benefits of using Luna versus your experience working in a private practice?
Well, I’m retired and have a lot of interests — I have grandchildren and other things I like to devote my time to. Luna works really great because I have more control over my time. That allows me to continue being involved in physical therapy while giving me the freedom to pursue other interests.
Could you share the benefits you've personally observed from a patient's perspective using Luna?
I think it’s been really good. In fact, I’m having shoulder surgery myself, and I plan to call Luna to send someone to see me; that way, I don’t have to go somewhere! But yes, it’s so nice for them to have a therapist come out to their house, especially when they have mobility issues.
However, traveling to people’s homes is a different experience than seeing patients in a clinic. Patients get more involved and attached — I have found. They want you to keep coming, which is why it’s important to help them stay focused on specific goals.
What do you consider the most important part of physical therapy for your patients?
Conveying the importance of self-agency regarding healthcare and maintaining function. This is something I feel very strongly about; I feel it’s the best way I can help patients by communicating that they are responsible for their own health and must become self-agents.
The idea is to take baby steps through a program with the expectation that they will actually do it on their own. If they don’t, the improvement in their function will not be sustained — particularly in a senior population. So it’s the combination of education, training them to engage, and encouraging them to sustain that over time.
What motivates you to continue working through retirement with Luna?
What motivates me is that I truly enjoy observing patients as they improve. I feel that my work is meaningful when I can have a positive impact on their health.
Get involved with Luna and continue your passion for PT, fostering positive patient experiences while retaining the flexibility to pursue your other interests.