By Eric Newman
Go out and make things happen. Find your purpose and find joy. “Act your shoe size, not your age.”
These are just a few distillations of the uplifting messages that will be delivered when the Senior Advocacy Group of Ahwatukee (SAGA) presents “Successful Aging: Keys to a Fun and Exciting Life” at the 2019 Senior & Family Conference and Expo on Saturday, February 9 at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center. Several speakers, vendors and community members will attend to provide service and advice to senior residents and their families. Admission is free for the public.
SAGA is a nonprofit that aims to provide Ahwatukee seniors – as well as those who care for them – with education, resources and advocacy in the local community.
SAGA board chair Vicki McAllister said that, having worked over 40 years in healthcare and with seniors, presentations to seniors often revolve too much around morbidity and the negative aspects of aging. February’s slew of presentations offers more of a positive outlook.
“So often it can be a heavy healthcare-oriented presentation, just based on their age. We respect that, but the seniors have asked for something more uplifting, and we have done our best to respond in an engaging and fresh way,” McAllister says.
“I think if you look at this year’s event, we certainly are building on the successful aging theme from last year. We’re giving that more of an uplifting and enticing theme, as opposed to the negative connotation that comes with aging sometimes,” she adds.
Annlouise Ferguson, SAGA board member and 2019 conference co-chair, says their events are a way to reach out to the growing senior population. “We wanted to do something completely different and design an event for older adults that wasn’t just a ‘health fair.’ The Senior & Family conference is for anyone who wants to laugh, get information on important local resources, meet your neighbors and experience SAGA.”
The keynote speaker for the event will be comedian Amberly Neese, who tours throughout the Southwest United States. Her speech will be titled “Joy in the Everyday,” and is aimed at providing encouragement to seniors that they can, indeed, still have an impact on the lives of the people around them.
“All of the contact that I’ve had with senior adults in my life, whether it’s my grandparents or hanging out at the local community center, there seems to be a pervasive feeling of being overwhelmed and feeling like they’ve lost purpose. Some feel like they don’t have a reason to be around, and that’s so erroneous. It makes me sad, so I want to do what I can to help them feel like they do have that purpose,” Neese says.
One tip she intends to provide is to go out and make experiences happen, rather than sit back and hope a happy, fulfilled life just shows up at your doorstep.
“Often, no matter what station we are in life, I think we often feel like we’re a receiver of life, that it happens to us and our job is to respond accordingly. I disagree. I believe that each day is an opportunity to be proactive in making the most of it and making the most of life, regardless of your age or whatever else,” Neese says.
Another special guest speaker is Jennifer Turk, a Human Services Program Coordinator for the City of Phoenix. The theme of her presentation is encapsulated in the clever title, “Act your shoe size, not your age.”
“I don’t know why it kept popping into my mind. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we took that seriously? For example, I wear size 8-and-a-half, and what was I doing at that age? I was learning, having fun, trying new things. I was active, and I thought it just had to be that for my topic. I want to encourage them to stay active, be creative and to not forget the things we needed to nurture ourselves as children now,” Turk says.
Turk, who oversees half of Phoenix’s senior centers and is a regular at similar events, last presented three years ago for SAGA. She says what impresses her most about the conference is its ability to focus exactly on what Ahwatukee needs, unlike many events put on in Phoenix.
“I like that it’s community-focused. The thing about Ahwatukee is, even though it’s part of Phoenix, it’s kind of a tight-knit community. So, there’s a lot of providers coming that are familiar with the community, and can offer specific services or help based on exactly what they need.”
Other speakers and demonstrators will present tips for staying active physically. The Ahwatukee Recreation Center will demonstrate pickleball, a popular sport based on tennis that is great for those who cannot handle high-impact running. Anuradha Goyal from the local YMCA will discuss Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese exercise involving deep breathing and purposeful movements. She will even show how to do some of the exercises in a chair.
Some of the conference’s sponsors include Liv Generations of Ahwatukee, Grace at Home Senior Care, AARP, Americare Hospice, Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee, Visiting Angels, Wells Fargo, Assisting Living Locators, ComForCare, Dignity Health Huger Mercy, Foundation for Senior Living and Hospice of the Valley.
The free event will include breakfast provided by Chick-fil-A of Ahwatukee, over 30 exhibitors, snacks, giveaways and valuable raffle baskets donated by area businesses. Around 300 people are expected to attend.
“Successful Aging: Keys to a Fun and Exciting Life” at the 2019 SAGA Senior & Family Conference and Expo is being held on Saturday, February 9, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center at 5001 E. Cheyenne Drive. It is free to the public. To learn more, visit sagaseniors.org, email email@example.com or call 602-534-5366.