Happy to be happy

Happy to be happy

Conference on Aging offers unique opportunities for region's rapidly graying population

By Marvin Schachter 03/12/2008

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Most seniors were happy to learn from a recent national survey that the happiest periods during one's lifetime are when people are very young and when folks successfully reach old age. Everything in between just did not measure up to the two extremes.

People in my own age cohort (that's the scientific name for a population grouping) who have managed to reach our ninth decade, and those older, are especially pleased. As the old story goes, when you wake up in the morning, read the obituaries in the newspaper first, and your own name is not listed, it is the beginning of another happy day.

Youngsters in their 60s and 70s, as well as the elderly elderly, are not unhappy to learn that we are happy, and that the statistics gathered by experts provide proof - but it perhaps is proper to point out that happy as we are, we are not necessarily satisfied with the status quo. Some of us may be a little tired. Perhaps too many seniors are isolated or are overwhelmed by the aches and pains of aging, but the exploding, continually growing population of the elderly is increasingly engaged in efforts to face life's continuing challenges.

Here in Pasadena, an extraordinary event will take place on Tuesday that is a unique example of what a community can do to provide opportunities for discussion, involvement and information for seniors.

More than 1,500 Pasadena-area seniors are expected to participate in the Pasadena Conference on Aging, an amazing array of 42 workshops and discussion groups that will run from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Conference Center of the First Nazarene Church, 3700 E. Sierra Madre Blvd., east Pasadena. Breakfast and lunch are included, all entirely free.

The topics on the schedule are a comprehensive array of the issues that concern the elderly. Some provide personal advice and guidance:

  • Dating and Romance
  • Chair Aerobics
  • Senior Education
  • Weight Management
  • Wellness
  • Avoiding Scams and Identity Theft

Other workshops are designed to help seniors understand and maneuver successfully in the complicated world of government and service agencies and their often complicated rules and regulations:

  • Healthcare Options in Medicare
  • Housing Options - What's Available
  • Housing Options - Eligibility and Funding
  • Elder Law
  • Long-term Care
  • Picking a Nursing Home - Patient Rights
  • How to Communicate With

Your Doctor

Additional panels are scheduled to encourage seniors to be active members of the community. Some might want to volunteer as a mentor in local schools, for example, or act as a much-needed ombudsman in nursing homes, monitoring the quality of care being provided.

Others might want to participate in advocacy; a responsibility of great importance when a state budget crisis has led to proposals to reduce senior medical services, as well as similar proposed cuts in national programs.

It should be noted that seniors are not "grasping grandmas" and "greedy grandpas" - senior organizations are supportive of educators and parents who are working to protect the quality of education threatened by draconian budget cuts:

  • Senior Advocacy - How to Win Friends and Influence Politicians
  • Volunteer Opportunities

The Pasadena Conference on Aging is sponsored and organized by the Pasadena Senior Commission, the Pasadena Senior Center and AARP California. There is not another city in California that has organized a senior event with such a breadth of offerings and such a large number of participants.

Why would - should - you be interested?

Obviously, if you are a senior - or one of the 78 million (yes, 78 million!) baby boomer generation, with millions each year discovering that they are eligible for a senior discount at the movies - the conference can be enormously helpful to you personally. The senior world can be both confusing and difficult. Hearing from experts and sharing experiences can help avoid pitfalls and make life easier.

Or perhaps you are a member of the "sandwich generation," raising children and worried about paying for their education, and also worried about your responsibility for aging parents.

Even if those cateogories leave you out, I can repeat the punch line I always use when I am testifying before the county Board of Supervisors or a legislative committee, appealing for more support for senior programs: "Remember, if you are lucky, someday you, too, will be a senior."

Marvin Schachter, chair of the Pasadena Senior Advocacy Council, is a member of the executive council of AARP California and is currently a member of the Pasadena Task Force on Condo Conversions. The views expressed in this article are his own.

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