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Tyrrell seniors were active during Older Americans Month

Each year in May, the Administration of Aging leads our country in the observance of Older Americans Month. Established in 1963 as Senior Citizens Month, it is a time to acknowledge the contributions of older people to their communities, as well as to our nation.

Each year has a theme, and this year’s theme was “Engage at Every Age”. To engage is to involve oneself, to become occupied. Simply put, to engage is to participate. And you are never too old to take part in activities that enrich your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

In our culture, aging is often equated with deterioration and impairment. Stereotypes about the elderly developed during childhood, are reinforced into adulthood, and can even be carried over into old age by the older people themselves! While it’s true we retire from work, and may even slow down as we age, it doesn’t mean we become irrelevant or useless.

The good news is each and every day there are people who defy society’s definition of what it means to be “elderly”, who are absolutely shattering the negative stereotypes. You have only to scan the internet to find the athlete who ran their first marathon at age 89. Or the actor who became a household name at 63. Go back a little further in time and you will find the artist who became a cultural icon at the age of 78. And we all know the story of the man who started a fried chicken global empire at the age of 65. The list goes on and on.

I have the pleasure, indeed honor, of witnessing older folks engaging every day. They’re helping to rear their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They’re passing along the know-how of their skills and learning new ones as well. They’re getting together and enjoying the company of friends, traveling, and taking an active role in their physical fitness.

They volunteer. And in a big way! The Food Pantry and Home Delivered Meals programs are all overwhelmingly manned by our older residents. Not to mention the countless church fundraisers and so many other service organizations.

A few years ago we had a young college student visit our center as part of an internship she was doing. She came to the site several days and interacted with the participants here and even did a few interviews. As her time was coming to an end, I asked her how everything was going. She said, and I quote, “You know, I used to be afraid of getting old. Until I met those guys out there. It’s nowhere near as scary now.” And that, my friends, is one kind of stereotype we don’t mind living up to! Engage at Every Age indeed!