Off Script: Celebrating our elders and honoring their journeys

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I was raised to honor and cherish my elders.

I have always enjoyed hearing stories about the lives and experiences of those who are considered older adults, and even those who are not. I’ve always been in awe to hear about the challenges, the lessons and the achievements. It’s a non-fiction storytime and history lesson in one.

Often, I hear, “You probably are tired of hearing about this,” or “I’m probably boring you.” I guarantee, I am not tired of listening to an elder share about something they experienced or feel is important to share.

Dallas-based photographer Tom Hussey did a photo series called “Reflections of the Past.” It showed photos of older adults looking into a mirror and seeing reflections of their younger selves. One man saw himself on his graduation day, another saw himself in his pilot uniform, and a woman in an assisted living home saw the reflection of herself from her days of working as a nurse looking back.

They struck a chord in my soul. The images were used by a healthcare company to market a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease (which is a whole other column by itself), and can be found through a Google search.

There are many misconceptions about aging and older adults, often negative and focusing on the deterioration of the quality of life. Some adults will experience degrees of memory loss and physical capabilities as they age – but, that doesn’t mean that our elders do not hold value in our community.

I believe our elders all hold great value, and listening to their stories helps to make connections not only to them as an individual, but also to the community and world we live in.

At 41 years old, I realize there are many historical events that may seem like decades ago, but actually are all under 100 years old. Some pivotal moments in history that I’ve learned about from elders include:

August 1920: The 19th amendment was ratified, legally guaranteeing women in the US the right to vote in elections. Although this generation of women are now just beyond their centennial birthdays, in my younger years I’ve heard stories about what life was like then. I make sure to vote in every election because so many advocated and fought for that right.

July 1942: The newly constituted 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment was activated, and replaced the short-lived 1st Filipino Battalion that had been activated in April 1942. My grandfather was part of the 1st Filipino Infantry, and while I’ve never met him – I’ve heard stories about him from my father, aunts and uncles. I’ve also heard about experiences from other Filipino grandfathers and uncles.

Winters Elder Day
I was excited when Wally Pearce reached out to me to let me know that the Winters Elder Day Council was bringing back the Elder Day event. Due to COVID, it had been put on hold the last two years with the last in-person celebration happening in 2019.

When Elder Day was first launched, I wasn’t sure what it actually was all about. It wasn’t until the feature articles about each of the honored elders began to be published in the Express that I learned the value of the event.

The 2022 Elder Day event is happening on Saturday, June 25, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Winters Community Center. I encourage everyone to attend the free event and learn more about the elders being featured.

Attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about the honored elders, and have a chance to connect with them and the community on a new level.

We should not take our local elders for granted. They help connect us with our community roots and can influence us to not only continue the community spirit of Winters, but to also inspire us to make Winters a better place to live.

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