May 19, 2022

Celebrating Resilience and Community During Older Americans Month

BY Gene

“My hope is that just as we honor our veterans on Veterans Day, we could take this concept [beyond] DC, and get people to invite elders to engage with them, hear their stories and wisdom, and develop that intergenerational sense of greater community.”

“Team Little Sisters of the Poor” at the Jeanne Jugan Residence was represented by resident Anne Sparich, age 103, participating for her second year.

Those are the words of Tina Sandri, CEO of Forest Hills of DC, talking about the 2nd annual DC Longevity Fun Run for Older Americans Month, held on May 12 and involving 11 aging services providers in Washington, DC. The event’s name was chosen to distinguish it from other “Fun Run” races for kids and to celebrate older adults by emphasizing the theme of longevity.

The Fun Run began at 8 a.m., when Dennis Morrissey, a resident at Forest Hills of DC, grabbed the baton and headed off to the next provider community. New runners, typically one or two at a time, took over the baton at each community and ran the next segment. The Fun Run, totaling 30-plus miles, ended when Judith O’Hara, resident council president at Forest Hills of DC, received the baton from the last runner.

Organizers say the DC Longevity Fun Run “honors elders and especially those over the age of 100, celebrates the resilience and strength of those who live and work in senior living, reunites us as a community beyond our walls, and reminds us that we have more in common than that which has kept us apart. Each older American participating has a lifetime of wisdom to share.”

The runner from “Team Sunrise on Connecticut Ave.” passes the baton to Judith O’Hara, resident council president at Forest Hills of DC, to finish the 2022 DC Longevity Fun Run.

The run is sponsored by Forest Hills of DC, Linked Senior, PositiveAging Sourcebook, and the District of Columbia Health Care Association. The course, timing, and other logistics were managed by Linked Senior, whose CEO, Charles de Vilmorin, is an avid runner. Sandri recruited the provider organizations and managed the consent forms and marketing.

Sandri worked with DC Council Member Mary Cheh to secure an official proclamation designating May 2022 as “Old People Are Cool Month.” Cheh was on-site at Forest Hills of DC to present it. Linked Senior’s Old People Are Cool project was created to fight ageism and promote intergenerational collaboration.

Other visitors included Dr. Sithembile Chithenga, COVID Lead-Healthcare Facilities for DC Health, and Isabella Firth Shycoff, board chair for Forest Hills of DC.

Last year’s inaugural Fun Run, which celebrated the reopening of nursing homes in DC, received excellent media coverage, including this BBC feature:

Sandri made a video about the 2021 Fun Run as well, which featured five centenarians participating:

“One of the unique features of this event is that it’s accessible and inclusive,” says Sandri. She salutes one runner, Selam Iamme, a CNA at Sunrise on Connecticut Ave. who couldn’t run when the event came to Sunrise because she had to work, so she got up early and ran at the beginning. “I also think the people who care for older people are cool,” Sandri says.

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