Active and involved — Older Americans increasingly bypass the rocking chair

Active and involved — Older Americans increasingly bypass the rocking chair

Each May, the Administration for Community Living celebrates aging through Older Americans Month. The message is simple: Getting older doesn’t mean what it used to.

Improved healthcare and lifestyle habits added 30 years to Americans’ life expectancy during the 20th century. The extra years have ushered in a phase of life where interests, goals and dreams often get a new or second start

“Aging today is all about getting rid of outdated perceptions and living life in a way that suits you best,” said Chuck Childress, chief operating officer for Methodist Retirement Communities. “We see a great number of people in the older population living their lives with purpose and passion — and they continue to contribute to society in a variety of ways.”

Dana Puddy is a perfect example. She turns 80 this summer, but hardly has time to notice the milestone birthday. Since retiring in 1997 as the director of special education for Clear Creek School District, Dana has pursued her interests in music education and the arts by getting involved with the Bay Area Houston Symphony League. For many years, she led the planning and managing of programs that introduce elementary school children to music and the arts. Dana remains involved today and works on the symphony’s annual home tour and other fundraising efforts.

This year, she has taken on the additional challenge of organizing and training participants in Kids Hope USA, a tutorial outreach program that pairs mentors with at-risk children in elementary schools.

One day each week, Dana also volunteers in the food pantry at Seabrook United Methodist Church.

Back home at The Crossings, she serves on the community’s Activities Committee and walks a mile and a half daily on the campus and participates in exercise classes when she has the time.

“My biggest problem is juggling all the fun things offered here at The Crossings with all of my other commitments,” she said.

Dana is one of more than 40 million Americans aged 65 and older, and she’s one of a rapidly growing number that continues to live an active lifestyle and contribute in a myriad of ways.

The 65+ population jumped 15.1 percent between 2000 and 2010. By 2030, the Census Bureau projects one in five Americans will be 65 and older. As their numbers increase, the good news is they will continue to make a positive impact on our communities through their experience, knowledge and willingness to share it with others.