San Mateo, CA. - Living longer just got more appealing knowing a cross-section of leaders and providers is collaborating big time to boost services for seniors.
In what is now the 30-year must-attend of the fall, Seniors on the Move welcomed 700 hale and hearty folks Nov. 17 from all over the Bay Area to break bread with their elected and appointed officials, learn from agencies about senior-specific resources and not-quite-secrets to prolong and elevate their quality of life.
San Mateo County Center roared with cheers for U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, godmother of the free event in coordination with her former aide now State Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Kevin Mullin and seasoned Supervisor Carol Groom.
Speier constituent services director Mark Nagales quarterbacked the tight program themed “Pearls of Wisdom” combining education and fun, engaging guests whose ages extended to the triple digits.
These are not their grandparents' carbon copies: They are millennial seniors, blessed with longevity into the digital age, whose brains buzz over Facebook posts and IPhone texts, their calendars packed with activities that would outpace their children's children.
Take Aurea Cruz, attending her upteenth Seniors on the Move. Longtime member of the San Mateo County Commission on Aging, Cruz does not leave her San Pedro Commons (Colma) condo sans lipstick and at least one strand of pearls.
Everyday she is booked for a community gig. On Saturday, she volunteers with Second Harvest Food Bank. The following day, she has a Cursillo calling. That's on top of her 15-hour commitment with the Commission on Aging, where she preceded three other Filipino Americans currently on board advising the County Board of Supervisors on issues facing their micro-communities.
Speier asked 60- and then 70-year-olds at Cypress Hall to raise their hands, shooting eager respondents' limbs up ceiling. When the 14th Congressional District representative called on the octogenarians, Cruz proudly hoisted her bejeweled hand.
She said 80, not 70, I cautioned my fellow CoA member, thinking she had misheard. In fact she got Speier loud and clear: "I'm 86!" Cruz announced, jet black eyes blazing at her incredulous seatmate.
Wow! I thought the ex-HR manager of the Hyatt Regency in Manila had just notched seven decades.
Indeed, what does 86 look like these days?
My own mom rocked a leather jacket and knee-high boots until she passed at 88. Her sister in Los Angeles earned her driver license at 75, taught piano, sang at choir, and worked out at a gym twice a week before cancer suddenly stole her away shortly before her 92nd birthday last month.
Almost 55 years ago, former Pres. Harry Truman became the first recipient of Medicare when Pres. Lyndon Johnson enacted the federal health insurance system for Americans lucky to arrive at age 65. Coverage allowed recipients to receive the care they need to continue staying healthy.
Medicare appears to be at risk in the current administration. But while it is in place, those who have worked for 10 years in this country have the right to sign up and benefit from hospital, medical and prescription drug plans around their 65th birthday.
Fittingly, nonprofit HICAP Health Insurance Counseling &Advocacy Program Manager Christina Kahn and Senior Medicare Patrol liaison Aileen Fisher opened the 10 am-2 pm presentations reminding of available free, unbiased and confidential counseling to current and imminent beneficiaries. They also alerted on new Medicare cards rolling out in April 2018, cautioning beneficiaries not to fall victim of potential fraudsters .
Attendees enjoyed complimentary breakfast and lunch. In between sessions where they picked up legislative updates from the officials, tips from CHP Officer Art Montiel (smart driving), District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe (scam protection), KTVU Channel 2 News anchor Frank Sommerville (behind television), Nathan Perkins (exercise), Dr. Ruth O’Hata (coping with depression), and Marilyn Baker Venturini (good nutrition), they hopped over to the Sequoia Hall to chat with elder and dependent adult resource providers about services and products.
Cherie M. Querol Moreno is an award-winning journalist, community educator, and volunteer.