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Seniors celebrate National Senior Health and Fitness Day

May 30, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - While Diane Sullivan was prepared to share the myths of aging with seniors Wednesday at Homewood at Williamsport, she found she also came away with a lot of truths, from those in the know.

That afternoon session was just one part of a full day of activities on National Senior Health and Fitness Day at the retirement community. All types and manner of exercises were combined with walks, table tennis tournaments, religious ceremonies and even a poker game and healthy eating opportunities.

"We've had quite a round of activities today and the response has been excellent," said Stephanie Schlapo, Homewood's wellness coordinator.

More than a dozen men and women attended the seminar on myths with Sullivan, a therapist with Washington County Hospital's Behavioral Health Services. Twenty years of experience helped her develop a list of false facts about getting older.

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"One of the biggest myths is that the years after retirement are the golden years," Sullivan said.

Many people plan to go on long trips, relax by the shore or have no more worries or cares. In actuality, illnesses often affect one or both members of a couple or one spouse may die prematurely and all the plans are for nothing, Sullivan said.

"When expectations aren't met, we get disappointed," Sullivan said.

Leona Robinson said she believes the person who coined the phrase "golden years" must have been 40 years old, not 60.

But Robinson said she is happy in her golden years and she attributes that to the feeling of family at Homewood.

"I am lonely for my family but the people here make me feel like I belong," Robinson said.

Lila Carioscia said her secret to happiness is to maintain a positive attitude.

"I've lost two husbands but I know that life goes on," Carioscia said.

All too often, Sullivan said, older people believe depression is a normal fact of life, but that is another myth that needs to be exploded.

"Medications can help depression, but positive thoughts are drugs too," Sullivan said, emphasizing that one's attitude can have as much, if not more, of an effect on depression than medication.

Sullivan said another myth is that people can become too old to learn.

"That's not true ... you can still learn as you age," Sullivan said.

Dan Johnson agreed.

"I hope I'm dead before I'm too old to learn new things," Johnson said.

Lois Rice suggested that keeping busy and involved in life is the key to staying young.

"At first, I wondered what am I here for?" Rice said. "Now I have so much to do, I can't work it all in."

Margaret Rohrer's philosophy was equally profound.

"Sometimes, you just have to reinvent yourself," Rohrer said. "I did that when I moved here because I found that I needed to be with people."

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