Thriving After 60 In My Own Backyard!

On March 11 I experienced two new things…Being the Keynote Speaker at an event in Prince Georges County, Maryland where I live, and working for the first time ever with the Health Care giant Kaiser Permanente. This event called Thriving After 60 (TA60) came about thanks to a recommendation from Positive Aging’s Steve Gurney! I was really excited because the theme of the event was right up my alley – Engage, Enlighten, Empower! During a meeting with Victoria, the Executive Events Manager I was asked to speak about Mental Health and the Caregiver that would include a focus on the importance of self-care for our mental health so my final product was based on my recent research into mental health and caregiving and parts from my own journey with my sister and Mom.

I shared with Victoria that I’d arrive at 8:30am to get all set up for the 10am start of the event, and when I arrived at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center thirty minutes from my home I was surprised at how large the ballroom was! Also surprising was the fact that people had already arrived for the event. There was much activity buzzing in the ballroom with continental breakfast being served while the talented hotel staff hooked up my laptop, attached the microphone and delivered a brief instruction on the clicker / laser pointer.

I walked around the ballroom and met lots of participants as they enjoyed their juice, coffee, pastries and bagels. Many people I met were very excited to see a keynote speaker who looked like them, others had driven more than two hours to participate in the sessions. As the ballroom quickly filled up I was thrilled to see most every ethnicity represented and I happily posed for more selfies with people since the beginning of COVID! I was so happy to see that many people also brought the person they were caring for with them and many of them wanted to hug me!

With the ballroom almost totally filled, the event began with an amazing woman named Prisna who led participants with lively chair exercises and she was totally awesome! I thoroughly enjoyed giving the keynote and everyone was totally engaged! There was lots of laughter, hand raising and clapping and lots of head nodding too! Afterwards, many people stood up to cheer for me and I cheered for them and the superhero job they are doing on a daily basis!

The response I received after my speech was amazing and everyone shared how inspiring and empowering it was for them and they felt more hopeful about aging and caring for themselves as well! Lots of people shared their caregiver stories and asked questions and I hung out with them as others left the ballroom to attend the breakout sessions. I had planned on attending the session on Solo Aging since I am definitely going to be aging alone, BUT I decided to catch the next session after lunch rather than leave in the middle of someone’s story. Some of the stories were heartbreaking and I tried to point them to the services they needed! I met new friends, including a few who live within blocks of me! I love that I was able to connect with folks who now know they can call on me if necessary!

I had lunch at my table with folks I’d met earlier in the morning, and they all shared how much they LOVED my speech and how proud they were that I was their tablemate! I loved hearing their stories too and I will definitely stay in touch with them! There was an awesome DJ who played great music during lunch and lots of hand dancing and line dancing too!! These folks know how to have fun at an event and I’m thankful I got to witness the Thriving After 60 crowd in person!

After more talking and some dancing I did make it to the afternoon session of Solo Aging and it was full of lots of information that I needed! The outstanding panel session led by Steve Gurney was the perfect end to an unforgettable day! Everyone knows how much I love to travel but it was absolutely WONDERFUL not to have to drive or fly to another state and to share such joy with folks in the County I’ve lived in for 36 years!! I felt loved and embraced and I hope they felt the same from me! Kaiser Permanente was thrilled with my participation and I believe there will be more collaborations in the future! I’m very thankful I had this opportunity because a few months ago I never imagined that I’d be Thriving After 60 right here in my own backyard!