Celebration honors Older Americans Month
Recognizing and honoring elderly adults over the age of 60 for their perennial contributions to society as well as raising awareness about important issues they are facing, members of the Prince George’s County Chapter Top Ladies of Distinction (TLOD) Inc. hosted an Older Americans Month celebration on May 22 at the Forestville Health and Rehabilitation Center in Forestville.
Older Americans Month is an annual event dating back to 1963 when President John F. Kennedy designated May as Senior Citizens Month. It was later renamed Older Americans Month, honoring older Americans and celebrating their contributions to communities and the nation. The U.S. Administration on Aging chose “Blaze a Trail” as this year’s theme, which is about acknowledging the perennial contributions of older adults and celebrating how they take charge of their health, get engaged in their communities and make a positive impact in the lives of others.
“I’m an older American. I’m 65 years old so I’ve seen a lot,” said AARP Maryland Executive Council Member Rose Hobson, who was the guest speaker at the celebration. “When I look out at the audience here and see all of these people who have needs, who have health issues, it does my heart good to say, ‘Here’s what I have to offer. This is how I can help you.’”
Hobson – a former security specialist who retired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2008 – said she wanted to get involved so that she’ll know what is in the future for not only herself, but her children as well because it has a trickle-down effect.
As an AARP representa- tive, Hobson said the goal of her fraud watch presentation was to offer information and tools to help older Americans like herself, and their families, blaze through trails as they age.
“If there’s anything they want or that AARP can provide for them in the form of information, then certainly we’ll get it to them because that’s our responsibility— keeping our adults, our seniors, aware of what’s going on especially scams and frauds and healthcare issues,” Hobson said. “I get involved in all of that and I just love it.”
Prince George’s Top Ladies of Distinction’s mission is to transform society by providing exemplary community service to youth, women and senior citizens so that their quality of life will be enhanced as well as the communities in which they live. Through various partnerships with other organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Council of Negro Women, United Negro College Fund, March of Dimes, Sickle Cell Disease, AARP and Black Women’s Agenda, the chapter offers five major program thrusts which include Improving the Status of Women, Enhancing the Lives of Senior Citizens, Top Teens of America, plus various community beautification and community partnership programs, according to TLOD’s website.
Since its charter in 2009, the chapter has completed over 100 projects and nearly 35,000 hours of community service, chapter president Lady Hope Ruffin said.
“It’s always important to come out, support our seniors, let them know that we care about them and to bring them things,” said Ruffin. “When there’s less money from the government, we try to come in and give them information that they need so that they’ll know. Here [at the rehabilitation center], they’re kind of secluded but they still may get out and be in their respective homes. So it’s very important that we do that.”
Organizations like Top Teens of America are essential partners in helping to make sure young people have an educational advan- tage and extra-curricular opportunities that are no longer extra but required for students to compete in today’s society. There are currently 108 chapters with over 5,000 Top Teens located throughout the U.S. making a difference in the community in which they live, the TLOD website noted.
Chalys Caruth, a 17-yearold student who attends Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, is president of the chapter’s Top Teens of America program. Caruth said she decided to join the program because she wanted to be active in something and thought it would be a great opportunity for her.
“It’s been really great. I’m meeting new people, I’m learning new things and I’m getting great experiences,” Caruth said.
Celebrating Older Americans Month is something she wants to do in honor of her grandparents who all passed away.
“I didn’t get to meet my grandad because he died when I was born and all my other grandparents died. So it’s really good to experience that feeling that other people can experience with their grandparents because I never got to experience that,” Caruth said. “It’s really great.”
During the celebration at the health and rehabilitation center, TLOD members presented about 10 residents – over the age of 60 –- with certificates and gift bags. All attendees were then given crossword or Sudoku puzzles and magazines in lieu of playing bingo.
Sheila Ball, chairwoman of the chapter’s senior citizen program, she said she enjoys working with seniors after being around her grandmother who had lived to be 101 years old.
“I always did activities with her,” Ball said. “Coming back up here to help these seniors is [me paying homage to and remembering] my grandmother.”
Today, the Top Ladies of Distinction’s mission remains the same as it was over 50 years ago—to pro- vide quality service to youth and adults by continuously serving the community and implementing community programs at a grassroots level. The vision of the Prince George’s County chapter is to become a premier humanitarian organization dedicated to providing exemplary service to the local community, according to TLOD’s website.
For people who live in the county and have a heart to serve youth and adults, Ruffin encourages them to inquire about membership and volunteer through its myriad of programs that positively benefit the community.
“You don’t get the chance to really outreach to the community at-large the way you do in Top Ladies,” said Ruffin. “Here, it’s just an extension of what I already do. I believe service is a gift – I use my gift and this is how I use it.”
AARP Maryland Executive Council Member Rose Hobson, center, gives a presentation on fraud watch as speaks to a small crowd of senior citizens during an Older Americans Month celebration hosted by the Prince George’s County Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc. on May 22 at the Forestville Health and Rehabilitation Center in Forestville. Hobson, 65, is a former security specialist for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She retired from that position in 2008.
Members of Prince George’s County Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc. and Top Teens of America surround a 102-year-old woman who was recognized as the longest living senior citizen at the celebration.
A couple of senior citizens at the rehabilitation center keep themselves occupied with a crossword puzzle and magazine as they participate in the Older Americans Month celebration.