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Ohio Department of Aging Aging Connection

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July 2010

Senior Adult Writing Projects
Sharing What They Have Learned

Senior wisdom and writing

A sage is defined as one who is "venerated for his or her experience, judgment and wisdom." To gain insight into the nature of lifelong knowledge and learning, the Senior Adult Generating Eloquence (SAGEs) program at Lorain County Community College sought the wisdom of its elders. The program invited Lorain County senior citizens to write an essay on the question "What was the most significant learning experience you have ever had?"

"I learned so much from my daughter ... I learned that it is alright to have pink and purple plastic hair clips placed into your hair by your two-year old daughter. I learned that when teaching your four-year old daughter how to fish, you would get the biggest lesson in the end; the perch were named and put into a blow-up swimming pool, instead of a frying pan."
- Reflections At Sixty by Johnnie Broeckel

The question seeks to learn more about what kinds of knowledge are deemed important by the people who have spent the most time acquiring and using it. What life lessons have been the most useful?

"Long, long ago, I LEARNED TO READ! Every learning experience from then on depended upon it. I read to find answers, to laugh, to cry, to look in awe at what words could do: poetry, stories, letters and lists. I passed the written driver's test - I could read! ... Nothing I have learned since equals the importance of this: I CAN READ."
- One, Above All by Lila McGinnis

Twenty-four senior citizens participated in the SAGEs program, which attempts to provide a forum for the unique and rich learning stories of this group. According to English professor Kevin Hoskinson, creator of the SAGEs program, "Despite the fact that senior citizens are our most valuable resource, their life accomplishments remain vastly under-recognized and under-acknowledged."

"At this time, on reflection, I realize that writing this paper is my most significant learning experience. I now know that I have acquired the ability to choose life and live it abundantly. Never be less than you are; always strive to be more. How? Take the newly offered path - the narrow one - designed by God, just for you."
- At the Time by Margie McGinnis

The writing contributions of Ohio's senior citizens also have been recognized on the national level.

In March, 2009, the Ohio Department of Aging asked older Ohioans to submit their recollections from the Great Depression so that the sacrifices they made and the lessons they learned may be shared with other generations currently facing tough economic times. The department collected 313 stories from people in 54 Ohio counties, as well as six individuals from out of state who used to reside in Ohio. The average age of those submitting stories was 85. The oldest subject was 103, the youngest 64.

Nearly 1,000 excerpts from those stories were posted to the department's Web site last fall. They present a diverse range of topics from food and clothing to employment, home life and differences between then and today. The most common theme throughout the stories was that people, families and neighborhoods of that era seemed much more self-sufficient and connected as communities than we are today.

The American Library Association's Government Documents Roundtable named the department's Great Depression Story Project a "Notable Government Document" for 2009. The online collection of excerpts from the stories was one of only two Ohio documents on the journal's list of 39 distinguished state, federal and international electronic and print publications, published in the Association's Library Journal. The journal describes the stories as "always interesting, sometimes poignant and occasionally unforgettable."

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Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame
The Ohio Department of Aging has issued a call for nominations for outstanding older individuals to be inducted into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame honors Ohioans age 60 and older for their extraordinary achievements and contributions. Individuals and organizations interested in nominating a neighbor, colleague, family member or friend may do so online. The department will accept nominations through July 31, 2010. Honorees will be inducted to the Hall of Fame in the spring of 2011.

Rock On for Seniors!
Art and Fun to Benefit Pro Seniors

Creative works by area artists and live rock from the decades will fuel the fun at "Rock On for Seniors," Pro Seniors' premiere fundraising event, at 7 p.m. August 14 at the Mayerson JCC (Jewish Community Center), 8485 Ridge Road, Cincinnati. A call to artists to design rocking chairs for auction at the event has attracted the talents of Jim Borgman, C.F. Payne and other area artists. Mr. Borgman is co-creator of the cartoon strip Zits and the long-time Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist with The Enquirer. C.F. Payne's work has illustrated 10 children's books and graced the covers of Time Magazine, Readers Digest, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, MAD Magazine, U.S. News and World Report and many more. Their work and that of 10 other selected artists will be featured in the auction of 12 rocking chairs.