Just as leaving home for the first time, beginning a family or starting a new career are life-altering experiences, entry into the older adult category is yet another milestone, but too frequently not greeted with the same enthusiasm as the changes that occurred earlier in life.
As people today face retirement there is much uncertainty. Will I have enough money? Will health concerns become overwhelming? Will there be caregiving responsibilities, or on the other side of the coin, will I be the one needing care?
Navigating this new territory can be daunting, and yet, this stage in life holds opportunities that previous generations could not have imagined. Learning to navigate it all can be overwhelming.
The hunger for information was apparent when the Friendship Centers together with the United Way of Charlotte County and Edison State College presented its Positive Aging Symposium at the Edison campus in Punta Gorda Feb. 7.
The day consisted of four panels of four participants each who spoke on a variety of topics designed to provide helpful information for those facing this new stage of life. The discussion topics included legal matters, financial planning, physical fitness, nutrition and mental health as well as community resources and opportunities for social interaction. Those attending had a chance to ask questions at the general sessions as well as to interact one-on-one during the breaks and at lunch.
There was particular interest in navigating the legal and financial issues that older adults face. They wanted to know how to structure wills, what sort of investments made the most sense and when to begin making arrangements of this kind. Several questions centered around how to proceed when financial preparations for retirement were proving inadequate to meet needs.
Mental health and the importance of staying physically active also received considerable attention. A representative of the local YMCA was a living example of how exercise can be beneficial and important for those in their 70s, 80s and even older. It’s never to late to start.
Likewise those who spoke about educational and cultural opportunities were received with appreciation, with questions focusing on programs at Edison as well as those offered by local arts organizations, AARP and the like.
The day-long program received words of praise from the some 80 in attendance. Responses on an evaluation form supplied to attendees indicated a strong sentiment for conducting similar programs on a regular basis and for focusing more attention on individual topics to allow for more in-depth conversation.
Organizers are hoping to honor those requests with another seminar within the year. Charlotte County, with 36 percent of its population 65 and older, is fertile ground for helping residents realize their full potential throughout the journey of aging.
About Kathy Silverberg
Board Chair of Senior Friendship Centers' Board of Governors, Kathy is currently a newspaper columnist/ freelance writer, and previously was Southern Region Publisher for the Sarasota Herald Tribune and Editor/General Manager of four New York Times regional newspapers. She serves as liaison between United Way of Charlotte County and the Senior Friendship Centers. She is past chair of the Board of the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce, is a board member and past president for United Way of Charlotte County; and, is chair of Charlotte County’s Senior Leadership Council.
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