Cel­e­bra­tion hon­ors Older Amer­i­cans Month

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @JClink_En­qGaz

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.”

STAFF PHO­TOS BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

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.

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