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May 1, 2007 > Aging, the Ultimate Adventure

Aging, the Ultimate Adventure

By Mary Anne Mendall, MSW

My father died on an operating table when I was 7 years old and he was only 27. Six months later, I was diagnosed with rheumatic fever, the same illness that destroyed my father's heart. Would I die too? That was what I feared when confined to bed rest in a Children's Hospital in a small Pennsylvania town for the next 13 months. It was then that I learned how tentative life is.

Life can end in an instant, and we cannot know when, where or how. This was a life lesson that led me to cherish every day of life rather than fear death, My father missed the opportunity to grow old, watch his children mature and play with his grandchildren. I have all of that and more. This is why, to me, each day is a gift, each challenge an opportunity to learn, each relationship a chance to experience love, and each success a delight to be celebrated. To me, life is an adventure and aging is a part of life.

At times, the adventure is challenging. As my body ages, I find that it rebels when I push it too hard. Sometimes aging is tragic; watching a dear friend and mentor die of cancer, consoling a friend who lost her spouse, bidding farewell to most of my aunts and uncles and being a witness as our family pulled the plug on my brain dead stepfather. Yet, these challenges paired with an awareness of my own mortality, makes every day even more precious.

Life's adventure is exhilarating too; as when I completed the climb to the top of Vernal Falls, gazed over the Grand Canyon, held my granddaughter for the very first time and heard my grandson call me "Sitto" (Grandma). As we age, we learn about our world and the diverse people with whom we share this amazing planet. The longer we live, greater opportunities are presented to make a difference, achieve a state of wisdom, mentor the next generation and witness the fruits of our labors.

In the year 2006, the first of a wave of baby boomers turned 60. As I approach that milestone, I am painfully aware of how little I know, how few people I have really experienced and how many adventures there are to be had. This is why I am proud to be a part of a movement in the Tri-City area that is changing the face of aging.

Pathways to Positive Aging is a five year plan to create an environment where all seniors have access to services and opportunities that enhance the aging process. Local organizations and seniors have come together in committees and workshops to learn, develop new services and create opportunities for seniors to contribute their experience and talents to our vital community.

Over the next several years, Pathways to Positive Aging will create an active and vibrant community integrating seniors with all families in Fremont, Newark and Union City. You will be hearing a lot more about creative and productive activities proposed for our community. Watch for future editions of this column in the Tri-City Voice to learn more about aging as a part of life. Pathways to Positive Aging is a chance to reshape our community. I hope you will become part of the action.

For more information about this exciting process, go to www.tceconline.org or call Asha Chandra at 574-2055 or Ray Grimm at 574-2063.

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