‘Other People Make Me a Senior’

Locals speak out on senior wellbeing in the community.

The Connection invited local senior program specialist(s) and citizens of all ages to engage in conversation on how seniors experience well-being on a personal level, how best to promote well-being later in life and what factors might be culprits for lower well-being.

The following were possible 'Conversation Starters.’

  • Although you are only as old as you feel, what age do you consider to be the senior-citizen threshold and why?
  • What factors might be culprits for lower well-being, those that have the most substantial negative impact on a senior's well-being?
  • How best in the local community, are factors such as physical, mental and spiritual needs, the more "subjective factors of a senior's well-being," met or not met? What about more objective needs, such as financial stability/wellbeing?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how well do you think a senior's voice and opinions, talents and skills are solicited and respected in the community and ultimately incorporated?

Julie Nash, 68, Reston

“I'll say 60 is the senior citizen threshold. I retired from the government at 57. Physical age is just one factor. I think some seniors are deluding themselves. They feel entitlement. A lot of the elderly become ridged and narrow-minded, and some are looking for an argument. I used to do a lot of bicycling touring, but I had to adjust and instead began walking on the trails.

“Reston feels comfortable and safe for me. I'm doing much educational learning because of a recent surgery. I've been to some of the OLLI classes, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute; it's a nonprofit. I also work with education programs in D.C., and there are concerts in Reston.

“I had a bad time with my Reston condo association. I stood up for others, and myself, and it made an impact. Reston Hospital's outpatient physical therapy, orthopedic department has an excellent rapport. It has a wonderful atmosphere for healing. During my recent surgery and rehab, I felt very cared for.”

Cheryl Chen, 48, Reston

“I consider the senior citizen threshold to be over 60 years of age. I believe loneliness and helplessness are factors for lower well-being among seniors, as physically seniors cannot always do things they want to do. I even feel that sometimes.

‘I feel Reston is a great place for seniors and if finances allow it, Reston is a great place to retire. Reston Association arranges events, senior movies, trips to D.C., things that seniors love. And the events allow seniors to socialize.”

Karen Kan, 78, Reston

“Sometimes I don't even feel like I am a senior because I'm still active and want to do the things I like. Although I feel aches and pains, I still want to be very active. What has the most substantial negative impact on a senior's well being? I don't like to lose friends. It really brings me down.”

Eleanor Benedict, 90 at the end of October, Herndon

“I don't consider myself a senior citizen. I think it's just a number. Other people make me a senior. (As for lower well-being) health is one culprit. People not acknowledging me (makes a substantial negative impact.) They are absorbed in themselves.

“Ninety percent (of my physical, mental and spiritual needs are met) through the Herndon Senior Center with their classes. I take local transportation. I do it all the time, the buses and the Metro. It's available and up to others to take advantage of it.

“At the Senior Center, we have book clubs, puzzles, dance, Zumba and computer courses. So many things that I can't do them all. Friday Night Live is here within walking distance. We can listen to live music.

(As for financial stability/ wellbeing), there are discounts available in the community for seniors depending on income. Even here in the Senior Center, there are discounts. Buses and restaurants have discounts too. It's up to you to take advantage of them.

“Senior voices are heard in the Town of Herndon. The Mayor and Town Councilmembers are aware of our needs. They've been here. They honor us for our past accomplishments and listen to our ideas. The biggest thing is that the town put lights on the W& OD Trail. It can be used after dark and the police patrol it. There will be volunteers to take us to vote. And our Police Chief, Maggie DeBoard does ‘Coffee with a Cop.’ There's one this week at Starbucks.”

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