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Panel discussion focuses on changes that occur when you age

Joanne Ahern - Panel discussion focuses on changes that occur when you ageAre you old? Or are you older? I am older than my daughter, but does that make me old? My son is older than my daughter but he is not old.  Does old mean worn out, past its prime, along in years?  How about experienced, practiced, enduring, and long lasting?  It’s all in how we look at things, label things, feel things.

May is Older Americans Month and I for one want to celebrate it. I am older, somewhat wiser, less encumbered by propriety, quicker to laugh, and more compassionate than when I was younger. I want to celebrate my age and stay as vital and engaged for as long as I can.

Older Americans Month was established in 1963 when the average person could expect to live to only 65.  The National Council of Senior Citizens met in April of that year with President John F. Kennedy. There was growing concern for older Americans in our country and as a result of that meeting, May was designated as “Senior Citizens Month,” the prelude to “Older Americans Month.”

According to the Organization for Community Living, Older Americans Month has been a time to acknowledge the contributions of past and current older persons to our country, in particular those who defended our country. Every president since Kennedy has issued a formal proclamation asking that we pay tribute in some way to older persons in their communities.

Older Americans have made and continue to make contributions to their families, friends, and neighbors through their stalwart support of recreational programs, the political system, the school systems, their faith communities, all the while striving to remain healthy and independent.

We as a community then should strive to provide opportunities to enrich the lives of our older adults through promoting and supporting activities for wellness and social inclusion.

There are many places where that can take place. Most churches have older adult groups where people can learn together. The YMCAs, fitness clubs, and community parks create places where they can engage in healthy lifestyles. Social opportunities abound at senior centers, civic organizations, and clubs. Maintaining mental health is easy to do with the abundance of workshops, seminars, continuing education classes, and mental and physical games.

The North Mecklenburg Senor Center is one place where you can get better as you get older.  On May 8 there will be a panel discussion on knowing what to do “when things happen as you age.”  Experts in five different fields will be discussing the what, the how and the when with regards to our health as we age.

Joanne Ahern is the director of North Mecklenburg Senior Center Inc., a United Way Agency. You can reach her at 704-875-1270.