‘Aging out Loud’ is What You Make of It

By Ann Guerra

I recently had the pleasure of helping two local women celebrate their 90th birthdays. If one attended the party and didn’t know these women, it would have been impossible to pick out who the 90 year olds were. Both loved dancing in their earlier years and both are participating in activities where they make a difference and stay connected to people with similar interests. These women age out loud!

This year, the federal Administration on Aging is highlighting the theme “Age Out Loud” in celebration of Older Americans Month. In Nevada County, where a good percentage of the population is over 60, we are loud by our very presence. The Older Americans Act defines a senior as someone who is 60 years or older. In Nevada County, 33% of us fall into this group. More surprising is the fact that the fastest growing segment of the senior population are people 80 and up. But what is the Administration on Aging, what impact does it have in Nevada County, and what does it mean to “age out loud”?

The Administration on Aging carries out the mandates of the Older Americans Act. Originally enacted in 1965, the Older Americans Act (OAA) supports a range of home and community-based services for seniors, such as meals-on-wheels and other nutrition programs, in-home services, transportation, legal services, elder abuse prevention, and caregiver support.

211’s Senior Assistance Line is a local program funded by the Older Americans Act. The Senior Assistance Line is designed to connect seniors to needed services and also to provide options when one is considering or facing a lifestyle change, whether due to choice, disability, or financial status.

In California, Agencies on Aging are the vehicle for delivering Older Americans Act services. Agency on Aging Area 4 (AAA4) serves Nevada County and six other Northern California counties. AAA4 is governed by a board made up of county supervisors and other appointees from each county. Nevada County seniors are represented on the governing board by Supervisor Heidi Hall and Andy Burton.

Seniors can contribute their input through our representatives on the board or, every few years, through town hall meetings and surveys conducted by AAA4. FREED’s minor home repair program and Gold Country LIFT’s Sunday transportation service are two great examples of programs being funded to meet local priorities and needs. The North Tahoe/Truckee Transit program is also funded as a result of local input.

But all of these programs are simply here to support us as we move forward in life. As my 90 year old friends demonstrate every day, aging out loud is what you decide it will be.

 

Ann Guerra is the Executive Director of Connecting Point, the home of 211 Nevada County.

Senior Stays Connected with Gold Country Stage

Margaret Burlew (with her bus pass around her neck) stands ready to board the Gold Country Stage.

When Margaret Burlew’s husband passed away in 2007, she found herself isolated, lonely, and no longer able to afford the gas to get around town in her car.

That’s when she headed back to the bus.

It wasn’t Margaret’s first time using public transportation to get around. She actually started riding the bus when she was eight years old. Each weekday, Margaret took the Grass Valley-Nevada City Bus Line—a private bus that ran between Grass Valley and Nevada City from 1922 to 1963—to school from her home at Mill Street and McCourtney Road. “The school bus wouldn’t stop there. They stopped on the top of the hill,” Margaret told me recently. The Grass Valley-Nevada City Bus Line, on the other hand, stopped right in front of her house. Back then, “it cost a quarter to ride to Nevada City,” Margaret recalls.

As an adult, Margaret moved to Southern California and learned to drive on the Ventura Freeway. Her bus-riding days were behind her. But when she found herself on her own in Nevada County, the bus made better financial sense. “It’s very affordable for seniors,” she said. Margaret’s monthly pass costs her $22.50 and takes her everywhere she wants to go, including to her health care at Western Sierra Medical Clinic. “They take you right up to the door,” she says. “Right up to the front door. What better service than that would you want?”

Margaret takes the Gold Country Stage every day, going to the post office, doing her shopping, and riding around and socializing with people. It’s her way of staying active as she ages. “I used to work in a convalescent hospital as a CNA, and they said ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it.’ You’ve got to keep going. After my husband died, all I did was stay home and cry. Every day I’d stay home and cry because I was lonely. Well, I’m still lonely, but I take the bus every day and that helps my loneliness.”

A huge advocate for our public transportation system, Margaret can tell you all of the interesting places you can get to by bus (ask her about her trip to Reno sometime). When I asked Margaret what her favorite destination is she said “I just like to ride. Period.”

Margaret’s knowledge of the Gold Country Stage bus system is extensive, but she wasn’t always an expert. “I needed a little help at first,” she said. “But now I can help others.” She added: “We’ve got lovely bus drivers. They’re very accommodating and very helpful to people.”

Talking to Margaret, you get the sense that she has always been fiercely independent. For her, the bus is a means of connecting to the community and to others. And it’s one she’s not going to give up anytime soon. “About two years ago, I had emergency surgery. I had a hernia. Oh, I was in such pain. They operated on me on Monday, I came home Tuesday, I went on the bus Wednesday, and I’ve been out ever since!”

 

Thank you to Margaret Munson of the Nevada County Historical Society for assistance with research on this article.