Plenty of ways to celebrate seniors this week

Opinion: Columns

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By Matt Baron

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Dozens of local citizens who have made an enduring and wide-ranging impact on the community gathered at a special ceremony in Oak Park last Thursday evening, May 11.

The eldest, Marian Brennen, was born a century ago — before women finally won the right to vote in the United States. The youngest members of this group, nearly four decades her junior, came of age in the 1970s. 

Drawn from the populations of Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park, they have carved strong legacies in the fields of education, business, public service, social-service agencies, and beyond. And, on this night, each shared something in common: they make up the Celebrating Seniors Coalition's 2017 "60 Over 60" Class. 

Joined by family, friends and volunteers, they were among more than 100 people who attended the "Rib'bon Fest" at the 19th Century Club, 178 Forest Ave. Their recognition brings to more than 450 the number of older adults whose decades of achievement — some already well-heralded and others whose lives have been marked by relative anonymity — have graced this spotlight. 

Rib'bon Fest, which owes its name to ribs donated by local restaurants, set the stage for the seventh annual Celebrating Seniors Week. 

The week begins on Thursday, May 18 and runs through May 25 in these three villages. 

A nonprofit organization, Celebrating Seniors has coordinated nearly 50 events throughout Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park. Some are educational, others are entertainment-focused — and some consist of a healthy dose of both. 

The events, most of which are free and open to people of all ages, are detailed in a resource guide available at numerous area venues. 

The centerpiece of the guide is a compilation of the "60 Over 60" honorees. For the third year, Nick Preys chaired the committee that identified, selected, and gathered biographical information from these men and women. 

Serving as the evening's emcee, Preys said, "I'm looking for insight and wisdom on how to live the next few decades, if that is my destiny." Preys, a lifelong Oak Parker, added, "I'm hardly one to give advice to anyone in this room, so I only offer a simple recommendation: read these profiles. I hope you get out of them what I got out of them." 

This year's featured event is "The Silver Gold Rush" on Tuesday, May 23. Held from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Lund Auditorium, on the River Forest campus of Dominican University, the luncheon event will feature a keynote talk by Wally Amos, founder of "Famous Amos" cookies and now owner of "The Cookie Kahuna," as well as an expert panel discussion on aging's impact on business and community. 

The Oak Park-River Forest Chamber of Commerce and the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce and Development are co-sponsoring the event. 

Other events include the Celebrating Seniors 5K Run, which begins and ends around Keystone Park in River Forest (Saturday, May 20, 7 a.m. check-in, 8:15 a.m. start); Pet Pals in the Park (Noon-2 p.m., Sunday, May 21) at Lindberg Park on Oak Park's north end; and a Movement and Memory Dance Class from 1-2 p.m. on Thursday, May 25 at River Forest Community Center. 

For "The Silver Gold Rush" next Tuesday, tickets are $25 for Amos' speech, $50 for the lunch, or $65 for both. Tickets are available at the OPRF Chamber of Commerce's website, www.oprfchamber.org. 

Funds raised contribute to supporting seniors in financial need, which is one of the four objectives established when Jim Flanagan, chairman of the Oak Park/River Forest Township Senior Services Committee, founded the Celebrating Seniors Coalition in 2010. Since its inception, Celebrating Seniors has raised a net amount of $70,000.

The group's other three objectives: to facilitate cooperation between the business community, government agencies and non-profit organizations for the benefit of the senior population; to promote senior groups and organizations that serve persons 60 and older; and to raise public awareness of issues affecting seniors. 

For more information, consult a Celebrating Seniors Resource Guide, visit www.celebratingseniors.net or call 708-386-3100.

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