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Fighting loneliness a key to Seniors' good health & long life

The loss of a longtime partner, or not being able to drive anymore are turning points that can lead to seniors' 'giving up' and becoming more isolated.
Some seniors have found ways to cope and have shared their tips.
There is also a community-wide project in the making, that could help seniors connect, and keep them going.

Pete Headd, who heads up Onondaga County's Office for Aging, says the agency is looking at a partnership with OASIS , which teaches classes to anyone over the age of 55, and sets up computer training for them. The idea: getting seniors to be comfortable with social media will let them reach out. The hope is, seniors can then connect with family members and friends who live far away, as a way of overcoming isolationism. The project is currently in the development stage.

We visited Syracuse's Westcott Community Center, and came away with these other thoughts from seniors on staying involved:

Food is often the draw, but it's the company that makes the food worthwhile.
Westcott Community Center is one of twenty centers in Onondaga County that caters to seniors. There are about 40 sites that offer meals.

Menzo King, now 88, comes to lunch every day.

"I could do it at home," he tells us, "but it's more fun being with a group of people." "Sitting in a chair in a nursing home and moping & griping is not my idea of life---that's giving up," Retired from Onondaga County Social Services, he works out at area gyms, stays active with his church, and has cut back on choral singing--at one point he sang with several groups. "When I retired, I was lost for something to do." He says he keeps telling people that the secret to long life is staying active.

Manny Breland, 82 years old, is also a regular. He started going to lunch at another center, to keep his mother company and thought he was too young for the services offered. The experience has changed his mind.
"As I got here, I started meeting people, and some very interesting people," he told us. Breland is pretty interesting himself: the first African American to get a basketball scholarship at SU (1952), he went on to coach at his alma mater, Central High School, then became a teacher and a vice principal, and a Syracuse School District administrator. He says getting out of the home helps your disposition, and hearing other peoples' stories helps him reflect on how hes doing. He says being involved with people is much more important than the food.

Ann Milner, '80+' says she will never really retire, and keeps active by staying involved with her children and their families, as well as people at the Senior Center. She knits, and teaches that skill (including to Menzo, who now designs and knits garments!) Her comment on not being involved: she wouldn't want to live that way.

Fred Wilson is a retired chemist who founded and runs 'Fitness after 50,' teaching exercise at senior centers around the area. He's enthusiastic about fitness (he learned to swim when he was almost 70) and likes to share it. He plays music that his class participants can relate to, which makes the 'work' fun. He says they don't exercise til they hurt, but keeping active, even with limited exercise, will make people feel better.

Area senior centers and food distributors welcome newcomers. Besides food, facilities and classes and speakers are generally free or available for a nominal fee. Another resource is your county's Office for Aging.


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