Our intent was to initiate a discussion to change the perception of aging in America. Award-winning journalist and former Good Morning America host Joan Lunden served as our keynote presenter.
What began as a way for UCH to recognize and honor the memory of Ruth Frost Parker, the visionary leader who holds the distinction of being the single most generous benefactor in our 100 years of service, came to fruition that day. Joan’s prepared comments captured the essence of what we’re striving to accomplish with our ministry: to transform the idea of what it means to age, and to celebrate growing old as a time of abundance, personal achievement, meaning, and importance. I do not think we could have selected a more compelling speaker.
Joan’s personal journey as a daughter, sister, mother, and grandmother and, perhaps most poignantly, as a caregiver for her mother and brother as their health declined, captured the attendees’ attention and imagination in ways we could have only dreamed of. With a narrative that balanced humor with sincere reflection, Joan so thoroughly engaged those in attendance that we were all laughing, smiling, and nodding in agreement at dozens of fresh insights and novel ideas. Joan’s remarks were both evocative and provocative, and demonstrated a keen grasp of the issues regarding aging that we face as a society, and that we seek to change as an organization.
Her presentation was only one part of the day’s story. United Church Homes also assembled a panel of professionals that featured some of the most renowned and informed experts on aging in Ohio. We facilitated a panel discussion by Dr. Robert Applebaum, director of the long-term care project for Miami (Ohio) University’s Scripps Center for Gerontology; Kathryn Brod, CEO of LeadingAge Ohio, the state’s largest trade association for nonprofit senior care providers; and Dr. Holly Ione Dabelko-Schoeny, associate professor of social work at The Ohio State University. With Joan, we further explored issues raised during her presentation as well as questions from the audience.
The title for the Symposium, A Generation Ahead: Transforming the Way We Age, spoke volumes, as it positioned United Church Homes at the forefront of what it means to age in Ohio. We created a forum for the exchange of ideas and innovation in the fields of senior service, higher education, research, and advocacy. The observations and points made by those in attendance — both in discussions among themselves, and in the questions they raised with our distinguished panelists — demonstrated impressive levels of engagement and energy.
The Symposium also afforded United Church Homes with an opportunity to serve as a thought leader on the subject of aging abundantly. For years, we’ve been steadfastly creating a culture that emphasizes education and learning, advancement, and improvement. We invite you to discover that culture in greater detail in this issue of Spirit magazine.