Myths, assumptions and stereotypes about older adults abound, even two decades into the 21stcentury: Most are disconnected from the mainstream, stuck in the past, a crotchety and feeble bunch, no longer bring value to the workplace…and the list goes on.
The fact is that older Americans today in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond are leading longer, healthier lives than their parents and grandparents ever could have hoped for.
Even the terminology has changed: Terms such as “elderly” and “senior citizens” now bear the stigma of dependence and being pushed aside. These terms have been largely replaced by “older adults,” which translates to independence, experience and wisdom. Language matters.
I would like to see an even larger number of people who are adding years to their lives by adding life to their years. To achieve this, social structures, roles and institutions must be in place for the benefit of all older adults.
This is why senior centers are so important. They serve as community focal points and have become one of the most widely used services among America’s older adults. The Pasadena Senior Center serves more than 10,000 older adults every year.
This is not your grandmother’s senior center where bingo, shuffleboard and sitting around in rockers reminiscing about the olden days were de rigueur. Older adults today want to be engaged, enriched and empowered, improve or maintain their health, enjoy active lifestyles and social interaction, take classes relevant to today’s world, access resources for social services and so much more. Akila Gibbs, executive director of the center, has provided innovative and energetic leadership to make it the vital community asset it is today.
As the Pasadena Senior Center begins its 60th year as an independent, donor-supported nonprofit organization that receives no financial assistance from any government agency, our goal is to sustain programs and services for another 60 years and beyond. These will always include special services for those who are frail, low-income and homebound.
In light of the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis, the center is currently operating on a limited basis and primarily providing critical social services for older adults. Many other programs and activities have been put on hold and, in some cases, offered differently, such as classes that are accessed online for the time being.
Life expectancy between 1920 and 2020 has increased by more than 30 percent in the U.S. Let us capitalize on these extra years to shape the trajectory of our lives in a way that improves our well-being and opportunities for a more fulfilling time to come.
There is no reason to shy away from the realities of older adulthood and the great potential this season of life represents. The earlier we embrace these realities, the better we can plan for a bright future.
For more information about Pasadena Senior Center programs and services, including COVID-19 response, please visit pasadenaseniorcenter.org or call 626-795-4331.
— Sandy Greenstein is president of the Pasadena Senior Center Board of Directors —