Seniors Celebrate Older Americans Month, Making It Through ‘Challenging Times’

DeCola Johnson plays Madam Dee, the senior pyschic, who knows all about many Eastern Shore senior citizens’ past experiences and accomplishments. Image from ESAAA/CAA virtual event.

By Stefanie Jackson – The theme was “Seniors Aging Our Way” as members of the Hare Valley and Central Accomack senior centers celebrated Older Americans Month May 18 with a combined live and virtual event sponsored by the Eastern Shore Area Agency on Aging/Community Action Agency (ESAAA/CAA).

Wayne Burton, manager of the Accomack County parks and recreation department, was the master of ceremonies, and Donna Smith, chief executive officer of ESAAA/CAA, made opening remarks, reminding everyone that the first Older Americans Month, honoring Americans age 65 and older, was celebrated in May 1963.

Special guests included Betsy Mapp, chair of the Northampton County Board of Supervisors, and Billy Joe Tarr, chair of the Accomack County Board of Supervisors.

Speakers, including Northampton County Sheriff David Doughty, thanked seniors citizens for all the knowledge and experience they have shared over the years, remaining steadfast throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing to serve as mentors to the younger generations.

Doughty continued, “We all should be mindful and promote awareness of the abuse and neglect that some of our older adults face today.” 

“We’re seeing a staggering amount of fraud committed against our adults. In hopes for little resistance, criminals tend to target our vulnerable, elderly community,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important for each of us to recommit ourselves, providing our support, our gratitude to them.”

The Accomack County Sheriff’s Office also was represented at the event and shared information on two of its programs that can help senior citizens maintain their independence and stay safe.

Senior Call-In Program participants provide contact information to the sheriff’s office and agree to call the office every morning by a specified time. If a participant doesn’t call on time, a deputy is sent to the senior citizen’s home to perform a wellness check.

Typically, a participant who fails to call in has overslept or forgotten, but once the deputy knows the senior citizen is OK, all involved can resume their daily activities. On the rare occasion that a medical emergency has arisen that no one would have known about otherwise, the senior can get help quickly.

Project Lifesaver is for adults with conditions such as autism or elderly adults who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and could become lost and unable to tell someone where they live to get help returning home.

Each program participant wears a wristband containing a tracking device that allows the sheriff’s deputies to locate a missing person quickly using equipment installed in their police vehicles.

Accomack County has used Project Lifesaver to complete four rescues to date, each in less than one hour.

More information about the Senior Call-In Program or Project Lifesaver is available by calling the Accomack County Sheriff’s Office at 757-787-1131. 

The main speaker at the Older Americans Month event was Lori Hook, administrator at Intrepid USA Healthcare Services, who was introduced by Cassandra Bailey, manager of the Hare Valley Senior Center.

Hook has worked in the healthcare field for 25 years, including several years at the former Heritage Hall nursing home in Nassawadox. 

When she was in college, Hook wanted to become an elementary school teacher, but “the Lord had different plans and led me to work with the elderly in a nursing home setting, and I must tell you that it has been the biggest blessing,” she said.

“While I always have wanted to be a blessing to others, I feel like you are the ones who actually have blessed me,” Hook told the elder members of the audience.

“Today, as I stand here before you, we truly celebrate you. We celebrate everything that you stand for, everything that you have fought for. 

“Everything isn’t always easy, as you all very well know, I’m sure, but the last year-and-a-half has been even more challenging for each of you. So, today, we celebrate you for making it through those challenging times, for remaining healthy, and we celebrate your wisdom, your knowledge, and all of your guidance that you give us,” Hook said.

The celebration continued with door prizes, a visit from the senior psychic Madam Dee, played by DeCola Johnson, and a hat and fashion show.

A king and queen were crowned, who were the oldest man and woman in attendance: Jack Johnson, 81, and Ellen Jordan, 104.

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