Making a Difference

It’s funny how the prime of life keeps changing. Greg and I both turned 50 this year, a major milestone, and what seems to be a perfect age. In fact, every new year is different, and better. And as we age and our roles change, life is a continuing adventure.

Our kids, Jake and Carey, are in their 20s finishing college and starting careers. Their cousins are starting families, and while I would encourage Jake and Carey to wait until their careers are well established, I realize they will make similar commitments before very many years go by. My role as a mother continues to change.

Our parents have also aged. We have faced disability, long-term care and end of life issues. Housing options, financial security and longterm health care are regular topics for discussion topics we now share with friends instead of what happened during our children’s soccer game. My role in my extended family continues to change.

I continue to work for the Environmental Protection Agency, monitoring technical assistance and response team contracts. In recent months, I have traveled to Louisiana twice, each time staying two weeks to help coordinate hurricane cleanup efforts. While I work, I have friends who are retiring and I am increasingly aware of the decisions I need to make before I retire. My role as a co-worker continues to change.

I continue to learn new things everyday. I have learned I have a role in sharing a historical perspective to newer employees.

These changes raise questions of planning for the latter part of my life: How does one grow old gracefully, all the while enjoying good health and maintaining independence? How will I continue to make a difference?

As Mayor of Seattle, Greg makes a difference every day. Currently he is addressing three critical areas affordable housing, education and transportation that squarely affect how each of us lives in Seattle.

Some ways I make a difference outside of work and family include sewing polar-fleece blankets to donate to fundraising auctions, and mowing lawns something my family jokes about, but my neighbors appreciate. But I enjoy these activities, and know they make a difference to our neighborhood and community. As my other roles change, I hope my contributions to my community can continue for decades to come.

Former president Jimmy Carter wrote in The Virtues of Aging that you dont need to be a former president (or first lady) to make a difference in your own life and the lives of others. He says you can make a difference by staying active and self-reliant, putting your affairs in order, and getting involved with others. I think that’s good advice.

That’s also right in line with the mission of the Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens, to support healthy aging, independent living, and social and civic engagement as we grow older. As each of us considers our changing roles and make decisions related to aging whether were baby boomers or octogenarians its nice to know theres an office with people who can answer questions, provide information and assistance, and make referrals to appropriate resources.

If you have a question or concern about aging, call the Seattle Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens at (206) 684-0500 or Senior Information & Assistance at 1-888-4-ELDERS (435-3377). Or you can visit our website at If you live outside of King County, our senior advocates can direct you to your nearest Senior Information & Assistance office.

The Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens is located at 810 3rd. Avenue, Suite 350, between Columbia & Marion Streets in downtown Seattle. Call (206) 684-0500 to request a free subscription to Spotlight, or for information about program offerings.