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The Best Years

of Your Life

A guide to senior living for the active African American

It’s all golden!

Your physician, your partner

What to do now? A publication of the Afro-American Newspapers

The Best Years of Your Life 1

A Publication of the Afro- American Newspaper


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2 The Best Years of Your Life

A publication of the Afro-American Newspapers


Carpe Diem!

T

here is an African proverb that says, “Where you sit when you are old shows where you stood in your youth.” Most of us are sitting in very good places, which is a testament to where we have stood. We have blazed a trail for others to follow. Now, it’s our time. The AFRO is here to guide you on your quest to making these times the best years of your life. All of us have heard that taking up a hobby can be beneficial for the mind, body and soul and it is true. Finding a passion, whether it be travelling or sailing the world, can rejuvenate your spirit, making your body feel younger and healthier. If helping people has always been your calling, but due to work and family restraints you did not have the opportunity to give as much as you would have liked, now is the time to volunteer. Being a docent at your favorite museum, reading to children at your local library or joining the AFRO with the reintroduction of the “AFRO Clean Green Block” will give you the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others and the community. Maybe, you have always had an entrepreneurial spirit or a desire to finally start the business you have always dreamed. Seize the opportunity to do so. Now is a great time to capitalize on your wealth of wisdom and work experience. Years of working for others should be regarded as training for working for yourself. If getting fit and staying healthy is your wish, take a few aerobics classes, start a walking group with friends and eat healthier foods. These are the best years of our lives. Enjoy them! Technology provides us with knowledge at our fingertips. It is time to embrace all of the wonderful opportunities it affords us. The web has made communication more efficient and instantaneous, putting the world in our living rooms and even making shopping easier. With all of the new designers catering to the retirees, it is easier than ever to look great everyday. The idea, from our parent’s generation, that over 50 was old is being reinvented. We have love, relationships, hobbies, information, great fashion and best of all, lives available to and ahead of us. I seize everyday which is how I stay young. I implore you to grab hold of the wonderful opportunities available to you and live each moment. If you are not sure where to begin, don’t worry. We have a multitude of suggestions within. Carpe Diem!

John J. Oliver Jr. Chairman/Publisher

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The Best Years of Your Life 


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 The Best Years of Your Life

A publication of the Afro-American Newspapers


of Your Life

Contents 8

Service is the rent you pay

12

New hobby creates beautiful crafts

14

Keep it moving

22

Your physician, your partner

23

The evolution of the pantsuit

16

Has it really been 50 years?

Sales Michaela Blanchard Robert Blount Marquise Goodwin Jessie Murphy Annie Russ

20

New and improved parts for the long haul

20

There’s nothing like a new beginning

Project Editor Rev. Dorothy Boulware

20

Four questions, four entrepreneurs

A guide to senior living for the active African American

A publication of the Afro-American Newspapers

The Baltimore Afro-American Newspaper 2519 N. Charles Street Baltimore, MD 21218 (410) 554-8200 The Washington Afro-American Newspaper 1917 Benning Road NE Washington, DC 20002 (202) 332-0080 John J. Oliver Jr. Chairman/Publisher Director of Advertising, Sponsorship and Sales Susan Warshaw

Electronic Editor Shanise Winters Graphic Designer Perry Sweeper Photographers Rev. Dorothy Boulware Proofreader Kristin Gray

A publication of the Afro-American Newspapers

The Best Years of Your Life 5


Retirement makes room for service Volunteer Mary Smith dispenses information to everyone who’ll listen.

I

n fewer than five minutes, Mary Smith was sharing her maiden name and telling a stranger she’s from North Carolina at the University of Maryland Specialty Hospital table during the annual “Take a Loved One to the Doctor” day. It’s that innate ability to connect with people that inspired her to become a nurse and to follow her professional career with energetic volunteerism.

 The Best Years of Your Life

She is one of many retired baby boomers –– you wouldn’t believe it if you saw her –– looking for meaningful ways to spend their time. She’s been a member of Israel Baptist Church since 1984 and can’t find enough ways to help people. “My children say I could talk to a dog –– if a dog could talk,” she said jokingly, but her kind heart and outgoing spirit cannot be missed. A publication of the Afro-American Newspapers


She’s just one of the seniors devoting countless hours to give help in so many ways. Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, have the highest rate of volunteerism of any population group. Statistically, they give more than 51 hours a year despite the fact that half of them have children in their homes under 18 and more than a third are caring for their parents. “Volunteers are valuable as they provide critical services for those in need,” said Daphne Hicks, program director for Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) in the Baltimore City Health Department. “They’re essential in building healthier, stronger communities.” And she says the need is very great. RSVP sends 463 volunteers to 42 sites in Baltimore City alone. The Pimlico Youth program is one they’re most proud of. They have Head Start, an afterschool program and a family support program. “Three seniors were placed there in January and they’ve built such strong relationships helping students who have problems with reading skills and whose parents are incarcerated,” Hicks said. “We’re so excited and proud of right now.” She’s also excited about a proposed project that could have tremendous impact in the city’s school system. “We’re going to work with the Office of Attendance Monitoring of the Baltimore City Public School System and those 8,000

students missing from classes.” She says school administrators are so encumbered with work that keeping attendance is “one more thing” for them to do. “Our seniors will monitor attendance, make phone calls when students are absent and provide mentoring and follow-up for at-risk students.” She says this is something RSVP can do to “really measure and show our impact.” Finding their own volunteer opportunities, Vera Frost, 82, and sister, Eloise Moses, 75, only slow down long enough to see what they’re going to tackle next. They work circles around their “youngers” and are always ahead of the group. Moses, who retired from the post office after 28 years, is the driver and provides transportation for other seniors for healthcare visits and other places they may need to go. She’s also the facilities manager for her church, St. John’s Transformation Baptist Church and that’s just for starters. Moses has three children, 12 grandchildren and seven great-grands, while Frost has one daughter, one granddaughter and two greatgrands. They both volunteer at the Washington Hill Mutual Homes Cooperative; Moses as assistant secretary of the board, and Frost as a member of the social recreation committee. They recently attended a meeting of the National Association of Housing Cooperatives in Virginia Beach.

“Volunteers are valuable as they provide critical services for those in need”

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The Best Years of Your Life 7


Vera Frost and her sister, Eloise Moses, are never at a loss for activity. RSVP of Baltimore lists choices including computer literacy, crisis intervention, youth projects, companionship/outreach, public safety and tutoring. The Make A Wish Foundation needs language interpreters and translators, office help, public speakers, advocates and promoters. For those interested in volunteering abroad, there’s Cross Cultural Solutions, started in 1995 by Steve Rosenthal after an absorption experience of his own. Headquartered in New 8 The Best Years of Your Life

Rochelle, N.Y. with staff in Brighton, United Kingdom, Cross-Cultural Solutions operates in 10 countries with more than 250 staff members worldwide. The organization has sent more than 10,000 participants to countries around the world. Cross-Cultural Solutions offers three types of programs: Volunteer Abroad, Intern Abroad and Insight Abroad, with programs in Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Peru, Russia, Tanzania and Thailand.

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For more information:

www.VolunteerMatch.org or call 410-361-9400

KES-2007-3102 Afro Senior Guide

10/15/07

12:38 PM

Page 1

www.experiencecorps.org or call 410-261-3502

We don’t see someone who’s growing old.

www.midatlanticwish.org or call 301-962-9474

We see someone who’s

www.crossculturalsolutions. org or call 1-800-380-4777 Local hospitals, libraries and museums

simply growing. The key to life is to never lose interest. That’s why Keswick’s adult day services keep seniors enriched with activities such as creative arts, gardening, education, and social outings. Our participants also have access to the best personal and therapeutic care available. Each day is an opportunity to get the most enjoyment out of life. For more information, call 410-662-4314 or visit keswick-multicare.org. TRADITIONS THAT CONTINUE. EHO

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E

The Best Years of Your Life 9


A camera guy

B

ill Tabron has been a shutterbug since he was 11 or 12 when he got his first real camera. “I’ve always been a gadget person, but photography is the thing for me,” he said. “It takes you everywhere, from being absolutely immersed in your surroundings to absolute solitude –– in a dark room or something like that.” You can be with a crowd and really involved or you can be alone in a crowd, Tabron said. He says the hobby can be as expensive or as economical as you choose. “My first cameras were all manual. This new digital stuff has the power to hook you and reel you in and hook you and reel you back in again. But expense is no real measure of the quality of the picture that can be taken.” He considers himself to be a professional on some levels, taking photographs for weddings, bar mitzvahs and even supermarket openings. “I take photos every change I get.” And the strangest things capture his attention for periods of time. “Sometimes it’s manhole covers. I know it sounds strange but I spend months shooting manhole covers.” The eye for photography is a gift. “A buddy of mine bought his first digital camera last year and his pictures are so much closer to art than mine. He has an innate ability. 10 The Best Years of Your Life

His stuff is absolutely amazing. It’s all about talent.” His favorite places to shoot? “Anywhere outside, places I haven’t been or been 10,000 times and want to see in a different way.” Even at job as a state administrator for 39 years, he works with the communications team doing photo work when the regular photographer is overwhelmed. He enjoys talking about photography and says he can learn things just having discussions. Do friends ask his advice on equipment? “A lot of people ask me about stuff and I tell them what I think, but I tell them go out and touch it and feel it and play with it. What I like you may not like,” Tabron says. “If someone asks for advice and they take it – it’s almost like you have ownership. Try reading the manual. That’s part of the fun.” He says cameras are so complicated, it is impossible to teach someone how to do everything. “You just point and push the button. You can get a picture of something or just a picture of your thumb.” Contact Bill Tabron at picturethistoo@gmail. com

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New hobby creates beautiful crafts The Rev. Cora Jones worked most of her professional life as a social worker and later became a minister. In her spare time, now that she’s retired, she makes decorative banners for worship space. The idea came to her in a dream through the scripture, “His banner over me is His love.” And her banners are beautiful. They’re multi-layered with different fabrics, yarn for hair and actual jewelry. Each one has its own message and color scheme. They come in two basic sizes and can be used in any space as a wall hanging or a special covering. “They’re all based on a theme, like this quilt which is ‘women who followed Jesus and gave of their substance.’” A publication of the Afro-American Newspapers

The banners can take as long as three weeks to make and quilts can take months. Her first endeavor began after a trip to Ghana in 1992. “As soon as I got home, I started buying fabrics and making African garments, headdresses, bags and accessories.” And in 2005, she started with the banners and now, her latest endeavor is quilts. Rev. Jones has three children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She’s always been busy with ministry as an intercessor and a pastoral counselor, most recently with New Shiloh Baptist Church. Contact Rev. Cora Jones at revcorajones@ yahoo.com or 410-496-5526.

The Best Years of Your Life 11


Photos by Dorothy Boulware The Golden Rockettes perform their routine, led by Jerene DeShields.

Keep it Moving W

hen our grandmothers were our age, they wore cotton dresses and Enna Jetticks –– shoes with thick, comfortable heels. They did a lot of sitting after working all day, but there was no doubt they were settled in as seniors with the expectation of fewer years in their future. So, we thought when we reached this age we’d also be “old.” Not so much. It’s even hard to pick the average 60-year-old out of a crowd now because she’s wearing jeans and heels or sporting the latest hair styles. The mature gentleman may be wearing Sean John and shades. With this new longevity, seniors have to hit the gym like everyone else to make those additional years we’ve been granted years of good health.

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The whirlwind encountered on any Monday morning on Garrison Boulevard might have little to do with weather conditions. It is most likely the 70-something leader of Praisercise at Calvary Baptist Church. Inez Watson greets exercisers every week at 10 a.m. First they pray, share good news and read scripture. Then it’s to the floor for the main event. Praisercise! She survived breast cancer and is not easily intimidated by anything. Like a drill sergeant, she leads her troops from stretches to lowimpact aerobics to pilates, yoga movement and ultimately weight training. Encouraged by their leader, they come with dings and injuries, but they still make their best efforts. Ruth Williams has been coming since the program’s first practice four years ago and

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says she can’t stay away. going through, they say, ‘been there, done On the day I visited, Jimmy Ellis, joined that,’ and encourage me to keep going.” the group, bringing the man count to two. They headline Mayor Sheila Dixon’s Black But he hit the floor running and did the same history month celebration every year and moves as everyone else. perform at birthday parties, anniversaries and During the session, Watson is likely to many other community celebrations. break into a diatribe on good posture or “It’s called Jazzy Energetic Movement – appropriate dress for seniors. She rehearses JEM,” DeShields says. “Many of these ladies the benefits of have had medical exercise such as problems, surgery and its positive effect their doctors say they on the heart. She come through better goes on to speak because of the exercise about weight they do. They’re in training, which good shape.” builds muscle Standing beside her, and burns more nodding in agreeance, calories. She also is the “golden lady,” espouses the value Gwendolyn Chester, The Praisercise group smiles broadly, grateful of passing gas who’s been with them for a break in the activity. and gives regular since the beginning shout-outs to those and sports a tee-shirt who are laboring with difficulty for whatever declaring, “I’m a Jazzy Energetic Mover.” reason. DeShields actually works for the Not too far from Calvary, at the Forest Department of Recreation and Parks but Park Senior Center, you’ll find 50 to 90seems to love this part of her work the best. somethings working dilligently on the “The ladies have performed at The Forum, exercise floor every week. But the real fun Martin’s West, the Waxter Center, the State comes when the class is over and they change House in Annapolis,” DeShields rattled off into the Golden Rockettes. The tune turns to with help from the dancers. Most recently “Take the A Train” and their hips start doing they performed at an annual centenarian’s a totally different thing from the mechanistic luncheon. movement that preceded it. Led by 50-something Jerene DeShields, Praisercise meets Mondays at 10:30 a.m. every Monday they shake, shimmy and strut at Calvary Baptist Church, 3911 Garrison their stuff with sensual sass, having become Blvd, 410-624-2111. Exercise class begins at quite good at it since the inception of the 10 a.m. Mondays at the Forest Park Senior group in 1986. Center, 4801 Liberty Heights Ave., 410-466“These are my ladies,” DeShields says. 2124. “They keep me going. No matter what I’m A publication of the Afro-American Newspapers

The Best Years of Your Life 13


Dr. Yvette Rooks is hoisted into the air by her grateful, graduating students at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Your physician, your partner

O

lder patients sometimes take medication without knowing its purpose or the possible accompanying side effects. They often submit to tests without understanding the necessity for them or the projected outcomes. The challenge is to change the mindset of a generation convinced their doctor is next to God in wisdom and authority. This renders them fearful of asking questions,

seeking clarification, asking for a second opinion or refusing to have a procedure they don’t understand. “I ask patients what their needs are and what they can do to meet their needs,” says Dr. Yvette Rooks, assistant professor and director of the residency program for the Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Then I ask what I can do to help.”

1 The Best Years of Your Life

She says the patient needs to feel responsible for their own health and see their physician as a partner in the relationship. And that’s the key word –– Relationship. She says doctors too often forget the relationship. “They see patients as conditions or diseases. They call people they’ve never met by their first names, if they use a name at all. They walk into a room without introducing

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themselves. They touch patients without asking permission,” says Rooks. “I’ve been known to send med students home. And when they look shocked at my dismissal, I tell them they’ve performed in an unprofessional manner.” She said it really starts with the doctors’ socialization. “It’s just good manners. I can teach medicine, but not manners. You have to get that at home.” That once sterile, distant doctor-patient relationship is no longer acceptable and is broached in introductory clinical medicine courses. “It’s not just a matter of ‘doing no harm’ anymore. It’s a matter of listening to the patient at all costs,” Rooks says. “They don’t know where people live or how people live or what happens to their neighbor. That’s all part of their disease.” She says you have to listen.“Husbands and wives have the same disease and think they should be taking the same medicines. You have to explain to them the differences so they can understand and not begin to share for cost efficiency.” That’s why she practices family medicine.

“I need to know who you confide in. Who’s your support system,” she says. “I’ll call a family meeting in a minute to make sure everyone knows what’s going on and what the real needs are.” She says real medical care demands being available. “Your doctor owes you a conversation.” She’s found her true mission in life, “to promote wellness in the community.” When she’s with a patient, conducting a group or giving a larger audience, “first I ask if there are any questions. When I get no response I ask, ‘Are there any stupid

questions?’ That usually works. The questions pour out of them.” When you visit your doctor, take a list of all your medications and a list of all your questions. Ask each question until the answer is clear and ask the new questions that pop up during the appointment. Also, inquire about any new medications that might be better suited to your profile. Then ask how your doctor’s doing that day. That’s what I do. Dr. Rooks is the project editor’s personal physician.

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The Best Years of Your Life 15


W

When the men went off to fight at the start of World War I, women had to take their places in the factories, particularly shops that made airplanes, ammunition and the supplies needed to make the war run smoothly. To do the jobs efficiently, the shop workers had to don a uniform that included pants. Skirts were unwieldy and likely to get caught in moving machine parts endangering their lives and slowing production. “I had a cousin, Josephine Lewis, who worked for Glen L. Martin making airplane parts during World War II,” said Catherine Knight, formerly a church musician and currently a deacon at

sisters began to sport their pants on the city streets which caused an uproar among the finer folks who saw the attire as some sort of gender confusion. Hollywood legend Marlene Dietrich apparently debuted pants in her 1930 movie, Morocco, in spite of the fact that California legislators just legalized the wearing of pants for women in 1995. At one point during her tenure from 1990-1997, the highest ranking woman in Congress, Susan Molinari was purported to be the first woman to wear pants on the floor of the House. Indecisive men have historically been taken to task with the assumption, “I guess

The evolution of the pantsuit Sharon Baptist Church. “They were required to wear pants on the job, but she never wore them outside of work.” Before this time it was unheard of for a woman to wear pants, except in rural areas where they worked on farms, and then, many just pulled the backs of their skirts or dresses forward and pinned them to the front to get rid of a flapping, wide bottom. Of course those who worked as carpenters and other physically demanding jobs wore whatever was necessary to get the job done. Naturally, the fashion innovation was not to be confined to the workplace. Some brave 1 The Best Years of Your Life

we know who wears the pants in your family.” The wearing of pants somehow signifies the bearing of authority and power. “All of my life I saw women wearing dresses until the more recent years. Women wore dresses all the time,” said Knight, 86. “I always wanted to look like somebody when I put on my clothes. I think that sort of stopped me from being a pants wearing person.” She lived in Brooklyn for the first nine years of her life until her mother died in 1929. “My grandparents brought us to Baltimore A publication of the Afro-American Newspapers


and my grandmother was very strict so we could only wear a skirt or a dress and always look like a lady. They had ways and methods and they stuck to it.” She’s not so happy about women wearing pants in church and wonders if things will ever go back to the way they were. “I don’t go for everything that I see.” She only wears pants when it’s “exceedingly cold,” maybe shopping or to the market. André Courrèges introduced long trousers for women as a fashion item in the late 1960s, and over the next 40 years pantsuits gradually became acceptable business wear for women. In 1966, designer Yves Saint-Laurent introduced his Le Smoking, an evening pantsuit for women that mimicked a man’s tuxedo, according to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. Until the early 70s, girls couldn’t wear pants to school, so the evolution of the pantsuit spans fewer than four decades. Now the pantsuit for women has become standard equipment and is paraded everywhere from the red carpet of Hollywood to the sacred carpets of church sanctuaries, although some career counselors still advise against it for job interviews. Hillary Clinton rocks pantsuits from the campaign trail which has sparked an ongoing discussion. Condoleeza Rice wears them all over the world. While they are among the most visible, they are not alone. A South -African woman was accosted last summer and stripped of her trousers in a small township in Durban. The Equality Court in Soweto ruled, as recently as April 10 of this year, that women cannot be denied the right to wear pants if it’s their choice. A publication of the Afro-American Newspapers

Women pretty much define their own style now. Whoopi Goldberg chooses comfort over conformity. Pam Grier is forever sultry, belying her age. Alfre Woodard’s attire is in no way as demure as her southern bell accent. They write their own script when it comes to fashion and the pantsuit rules. The first pants outfits more closely resembled wide, knee-length dresses with pants underneath. Mary Tyler Moore’s pants defied the dresses and heels of June Cleaver and Harriet of “Ozzie and Harriet,” but looked more like dance tights than trousers. But the suits of today have elegant lines and differing jacket lengths that tailor to the body. Shorter jacks are available for svelte bodies that need no cover up and longer ones for voluptuous shapes. We’ve come a long way and we’re sporting pants for the rest of the journey.

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The Best Years of Your Life 17


It’s all golden: Has it really been 50 years?

T

The song says “love is wonderful the second time around,” but it seems pretty hot for some couples who stick it out with each other over the long haul. Dorothy and Thomas Reed have some of the funniest stories about their exploits over 53 years of marriage. He moved to Baltimore from Charlestown, W. Va. when he was about 13 and her dad

thought him to be “mannish” and dared her to go near him. What can be more powerful than a natural attraction and a challenge from a parent? “I thought she was the prettiest little thing I’d ever seen and she lived right across the street from me,” Thomas said about his wife. “We’ve been true lovers for a long time.” She could see his house from the third floor window

18 The Best Years of Your Life

and wasn’t a bit put off by her father’s declaration that she always liked the bad boys. “He told me he’d better not catch me with that boy,” she said, “But you know we made ways to see each other.” They ended up at Frederick Douglass High School together after Thomas graduated valedictorian of the 9th grade class. He didn’t finish school because he had to help

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take care of his family, but one year after Dorothy’s graduation, they were married 1954. The secret to their success? “We do everything together. When we went on vacation we took our children with us,” they answer in concert. And since retiring, Thomas from the post office and Dorothy from 30 years in the mental health field, they’ve travelled to every state of the country, except five. They’re keeping track. “He’s the meticulous administrator,” she says. “You’d think he was the one to go to college instead of me.” Thomas keeps records of their travel. He posts their weekly schedule so they can coordinate. He works part-time for a marketing company and she accompanies him when he schedule permits. When Dorothy goes, she gets paid. When she does not go, she receives no pay, much to her surprise. “I couldn’t believe he was keeping a record of when I went and when I didn’t,” she said. “One time I asked why my money was short and he said, ‘remember you didn’t

go those days.’” They are one continuous laugh and a rapid-firing round of stories. He calls her “Dot.” She calls him “Buddy.” Once they were on the way to Las Vegas and just as they approached a 75 mile stretch of desert, their conversion van broke down. They couldn’t believe it. There didn’t appear to be any help in sight. “We held hands and we prayed. Oh my goodness, he prayed up something,” she said. It turned out that there

was a service place nearby, but they didn’t have the part he needed. There was a hotel nearby so they had to spend the night. The part was ordered and delivered the next day. “I held my breath waiting to see what this guy was going to charge us. We were at their mercy and they really could have taken advantage,” he said. “When he gave me the grand total – part, labor, everything, it came to $119 dollars. You talking about excited, I was dancing up a storm.”

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The Best Years of Your Life 19


The Brightfuls

Charles and Doris Brightful They could hardly believe they’d gotten such a blessing. Together they work. Together they play. Together they care for sick relatives. “ We’ve taken care of my mother-in-law who died when she was 103. Now we’re taking care of my sister.” And they worship together at New Shiloh Baptist Church. “We both belong to the Great Choir. I belong to the Comfort Choir, but Buddy mans the engineering booth during funerals so he doesn’t

sing. And we both belong to the culinary ministry.” They have two daughters and one son, six grandchildren and three great grands. He says the secret is to “do things together, stick together and compromise.” They even said these things together. He starts a sentence and she finishes it. She eggs him on to tell a joke or a funny story and then stares adoringly at him while he does.

20 The Best Years of Your Life

Charles Brightful must have been a serious hunk in the day. He had to duck out the back door of a party because his former girlfriend who was in the “family way” was there as well as a current girlfriend who was determined, since the day she laid eyes on him, that he would be her guy. Now, he is. She won the battle and they’ve been married now for 50 years. Doris was in love and wasn’t about to change her mind. Charles’ basketball coach at Douglass told her to leave “that boy alone so he can play ball.” Her father said the same thing. He’d found out about Charles’ relationship with the other young lady and wasn’t having any of those shenanigans with his daughter. “When we did go out, he’d leave me at Carrollton and Harlem so Momma wouldn’t see us,” Doris said. So after graduating from Douglass, she went on to become the first Black student to graduate from St. Agnes Nursing School. By that time her competition had married someone else so the field was clear.

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A close friend had her own opinion about them. “Esther Lee bet me $50 that I was going to marry Charles.” She wasn’t so sure about it then, but she always knew she was “in love with this Charles.” “I hadn’t seen him for three years and one day I just decided to call him.” And it was during that conversation they set a date. The Rev. Kelly Jackson, then pastor of Metropolitan United Methodist Church, married them Nov. 23, 1957 in the parsonage, because Doris’ mother was still against the marriage. A couple of months before that, she had become the first Black head nurse at University Hospital and Charles was finishing courses at Morgan State on a scholarship. “We rented our first apartment from Sen. Verda Welcome – one bedroom – for $14 a week.” When Pollack Blum promoted its “three rooms of furniture” package for a reasonable down payment, she walked into the store and offered $1. “They told me if I had that much nerve, I could have the furniture.” A box on the fire escape

served as a refrigerator. “But we had more parties and more company in that apartment,” Doris said. And their fun continues. She

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manages the Forest Park Senior Center and Charles is retired.

The Best Years of Your Life 21


Joanne Smith demonstrates a lumbar stretch.

New and improved parts for ‘boomers’

T

he idea of Jamie Somers being worth more than 6 million in replacement parts was a great premise for a television show, but who knew in 2008 we’d be reporting to doctors for treatment for exhausted backs and joints or bionic replacement? Cataracts are being removed on an outpatient basis. Far-sighted

eyes receive a new lease with lunch-hour laser surgery that ends the need for glasses. New knees, hips, ankles and rotator cuffs are common place and have already evolved into gender-specific joints. “People’s expectation of activity has also changed. They have to be physically active so they can enjoy a quality of life, regardless of

22 The Best Years of Your Life

longevity,” said Dr. Errol Bennett, Maryland General Hospital. “It needs to be understood that there are options, that no one has to suffer constant pain for long periods of time.” This idea is increasingly true as life expectancy approaches the century mark. Of course, replacement is the ultimate option after other alternatives have been

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exhausted. “First we’d try medication, like ansaids, which may be sufficient because if the pain subsides, the indication is that the degenerative process is slowed or abated. If not, the next move would be toward injections –– cortisone or three over a three-week period,� he said. “For some, improvement often lasts a year or more. And they can be repeated. There’s no limit.� But if a patient is functionally impaired and having severe pain, then replacement would be indicated. “If the joint is destroyed by arthritis, the cartilage cushion is gone; if there’s deformity to the bones with bone-onbone contact, some sort of replacement is probably needed,� Dr. Bennett said. He said lay people use the term replacement, but the process is actually a resurfacing of the existing bone. “It’s more like putting a crown on a tooth, at least with the knee joints. The hip is actually a replacement.� When asked about the success of these procedures, Dr. Bennett replied that of all the medical treatments available –– being measured

by quality of life years –– joint replacements run very high, as high as heart bypass

surgery. “After 15 years, in 95 percent of patients, knees are still functioning at good or

excellent level,� Dr. Bennett said. “And that’s even higher for hips.� The average hospital stay is three day; much improved over the week long stay of 10 years ago or the two-week stay of 20 years ago. “We’ve found that a longer stay is not necessarily better for you. And the shorter one works because we have better anesthesia techniques and more effective pain management,� Dr. Bennett said. The patient is generally up on the first day after surgery. On the second day, they

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The Best Years of Your Life 2


Wanda Purdie relaxes during a cervical decompression treatment. begin small walks. And on the third day, depending on any complications, the patient is either discharged to rehab or sent home. A physical therapist does home visits until the patient can safely navigate stairs and getting in and out of cars. At that point, the patient goes to a therapy facility for the next four weeks of treatment. Wanda Purdie is one of those patients. She had one knee and both shoulder joints replaced, but did not reap the full benefit of the shoulder surgery until she began decompression treatment on her neck. Many neck and

back conditions that used to require surgery can now be treated with decompression. The treatment actually stretches the spine and creates space so bulging disks can slide back into place and be rehydrated. This follows sessions to assess and increase agility and flexibility, which are necessary so muscles can facilitate replacement of the disks. Purdie swears by her physical therapist, William Garrett, a partner in Burs and Garrett on North Charles Street. “I look forward to the

2 The Best Years of Your Life

treatment,” she says. “It’s so relaxing and it really makes a difference.” Garrett says the preliminary treatment includes “electrical stimulation, ultra sound and hands on manipulation.” Sore backs and joints, not only prevalent in seniors, are exacerbated by the swell of obesity, so Garrett has no shortage of patients. Each is individually evaluated to ascertain the uniqueness of their injury or the stage of the degenerative process. “That’s how we decide the type of traction and the length of the treatment,” Garrett said. “We want to get the

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patient to relax and reduce pain, not cause more pain from the treatment.” The determination also has to be made as to whether a patient is a viable candidate for the treatment. “If a patient presents with a spine compromised by osteoporosis, infection, if they have a tumor or cervical rheumatoid arthritis, traction is not an option,” according to Garrett, who has been in practice for 21 years. Losing weight is the first step for good back health. Losing just a few pounds makes a tremendous

difference. “And paying attention to sitting too long without moving, how you lift things and posture,” Garrett said. He gives all patients an explanation on the workings of the spine, behavior that exerts too much stress on disks and better ways of doing physical work. With much detail, he makes sure patients understand their own diagnosis and prognosis. “Our success rate is excellent for patients who fully participate in their care.” Dr. Bennett says, culturally, “our people have traditionally

tended to be skeptical of medical procedures, suffering more than we need to because we’re scared of outcomes.” He really wants to see that change. “A person shouldn’t decide their treatment based on someone else’s success or failure.”

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The Best Years of Your Life 25


At Monique’s home before the premiere of Phat Girlz

Next was an appearance as an extra for Homicide the Movie. “The director looked at me and said, ‘I want you to pretend you live in the neighborhood and you just saw someone shot down on the street,’ and I did,” she said. And apparently she did it just right because her role grew into a speaking part and she could feel life sort of taking her somewhere she didn’t expect to be.

‘It’s never too late to start again’

W

hen Sandy Watters was processing incident reports and pulling arrest records at the Baltimore City Police Department, she couldn’t have imagined what her retirement years would be like. Not even when she sang in the hot spots on Pennsylvania Avenue Club Casino, Gamby’s and the White Elephant could she have guessed that life would propel her into the entertainment arena. Her plan for retirement was to move to a southern state, buy a boat and fish as much as her heart desired. But there was another plan

in store and it began near her 60th birthday. Carpal tunnel syndrome robbed her of the ability to continue the office work she’d done for so many years so she left the police department. The death of her only son almost robbed her of life due to a broken heart. But in the aftermath of all that came something quite unexpected. First she was approached to enter a Nell Carter look alike contest at Reisterstown Road Plaza, which she won. This opened the doors for fashion shoots for Sixteen Plus, Lexington Lady and other vendors of clothing for plus size women.

26 The Best Years of Your Life

“I said, ‘Oh my God. Here we go,’” Watters said and she was off to the start of a totally “Cinderella” type journey. “I can’t say it was the fulfillment of a dream, because I never dreamed of such a thing,” Watters said. Now the grandmother of four and the great grandmother of seven, she’s still doing new things. The latest movie was Phat Girlz starring Mo’Nique, who was one of Watters’ models in the Just Us Plus troupe she started along with Gai Young who recruited her for the Nell Carter contest. “And she never forgot me,” Watters says of

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Mo’Nique. First they called delighted with the spiritual include Major League II, to get permission to use her camaraderie developing Accidental Tourist, Clara’s photos on the set of Phat between her church and the Heart, Meteor Man, Men Girlz, which she gave with no members of the synagogue Don’t Leave and Absolute hesitation. with which they have shared Power. Then they called three space since a fire destroyed You might remember her months later to request her their building in July of 2007. face from Kaiser Permanente, performance in a scene. “The Rabbi’s got his toe Lexington Lady or the Dick “I asked when they would tapping when the choir is Gelfman commercials. She need me and he said, ‘last singing and the ladies are starred in three episodes week.’ So they flew me out running up and down the of “Homicide: Life on the and I did the scene and came aisle with our members,” she Streets” and played an back home.” said. “It’s fantastic.” extra on “The Wire.” Her And she got PAID. But Fantastic describes a commercial print credits Afro—Guide to Senior Living that wasn’t the end of it. Four woman who’s not afraid to include work for Stop, Shop Insertion Order: May 2008 months later, they called for Price: start something new when and Save. Watters doesn’t $600.00 her to come for the premiere. Size: most ready to sit for a model as much now, but 6.74are X 6.53 “I stayed at Mo’Nique’s spell. In addition to Phat stays busy with film and house and she was so Girlz, her movie credits commercial work. gracious and showed me the best of hospitality while I was Breast & Cervical Cancer Screening there.” Early detection of breast and cervical cancer can save your life. She’s still in awe of the whole experience. “When I was young, slim and trim, no FREE SCREENING IS x Are aged 40-64 one paid me no mind,” she says. But in the last 20 years AVAILABLE FOR x Do not have insurance for breast or cervical cancer screening she’s attracted quite a bit of MARYLAND RESIDENTS attention with her fashionable a limited income WHO: x Have Income eligibility changes yearly and is based on U.S. government guidelines. carriage and her warm smiling face framed with beautiful gray hair. Even now, she’s being wooed to do more commercials and she’s game for it. Watters has been a member of First Mt. Olive If you are over 40, you should be screened for breast cancer Freewill Baptist Church for every year. To find out if you are eligible, call 410-887-3432. more than 40 years and is TTY users—call through Maryland Relay

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The Best Years of Your Life 27

Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith and the Baltimore County Council


Four questions, four entrepreneurs Jazie Leonard is the owner of Pure Skin Day Spa on 2 E. Baltimore St. and has been in operation for four years. Call 91755-50 or e-mail info@pureskindayspa. com for more information. 1. What’s the mission of your company? “To help people live healthier and look as great as they can while they’re enjoying their life everyday. We do that by offering skincare services, massage therapy and teaching health seminars – What’s fat got to do with it?” 2. What challenges do you face? “One is getting people to understand that getting services at a spa is not a luxury item, but a necessity. There are so many benefits ––relieving tension in the body, helping body to relax so it can function as it should on a daily basis. Getting people to commit to making it part of their regular schedule. They come once, but they don’t realize the need for continuous care.” . What are the perks of having your own business? “Planning what you’re going to do every day. Making your own decisions without having to get permission from someone else. Experiencing a new type of freedom. I could think clearer and I felt better about myself than when I worked for someone else. So 28 The Best Years of Your Life

I’m able to provide better services and help people more. I’m not limited in what I can do. I can go as far as I want to go.” . Any advice for prospective entrepreneurs? “Before you start with your plan, get help to understand the operation of a business. That’s very important. Funding is key. You seem to never have enough money in a business because things can change from day to day. Financial aspects need to be in order because problems arise unexpectedly. Even though you’re making an income, you have to invest much of it back into the business. Be very careful who you involve in your business. Take care of yourself every day – mind, body and spirit. It’s all God given so take care in order to be successful in whatever you’re doing.” Denise Washington is the owner of the Thir-Tea First Street Café and Tearoom, 1 E. 1st St., 10-889-7112 1. What’s the mission of your company? “When I decided to open a tea room, it was because I felt there was need for such a place because of my upbringing. The afternoons when my grandmother set up tea parties were always so special. I began seeing young ladies who didn’t have someone introducing them to tea and quiet atmospheres. A publication of the Afro-American Newspapers


They only had fast food places and they lacked etiquette. I thought I could make a difference for them and also for those who have had the experience and want to recapture that art of taking tea. So I chose the Victorian décor – something special. I wanted to have china, the lace, the stemware, silver and individual pots of tea. For the young ladies mostly. And for the older ladies who miss it.” 2. What challenges do you face? “The main challenge is getting a reliable work staff. You can always get someone, but to get someone with a good work ethic. I can be booked all day and I may have two or three people who won’t show up to work. I have a good market. Good repeat customers. The biggest thing is a good work force. When I meet with other restaurant owners, they have the same problem. Big turnover with staff and those who come late or not at all.”

entrepreneurs? “I always tell folks to make sure if they want to open a business to be legitimate. Have all your licenses, insurance, pay your taxes. Those things make you legitimate. When grants and loans come up, if you don’t have those thingsin order, you’re not eligible. You can’t take advantage of the things that make it easier for you.” The Rev. Dr. Leslie Ransom Sr. has operated LLRansom and Associates, 10--219, pastorleslieransomsr@msn.com for 20 years. 1. What’s the mission of your company? “To provide consultation and hands on assistance for new and developing businesses. We do articles of incorporation, write bylaws, help with taxes and any other necessary functions.” 2. What challenges do you face? “Controlling growth and cash flow. Business seems to come in spurts rather than an easy flow, especially during the tax season.”

. What are the perks of having your own business?

3. What are the perks of having your own business?

“I get to set the standard of quality for what I want to do. I can keep my service at the level I want. I can choose the décor and the quality of food I want. It’s a freedom I wouldn’t have if I were a franchise or merely a manager.”and those who come late or not at all.” .

“The opportunity to develop my own ideas and methodology.” 4. Any advice for prospective entrepreneurs?

Any advice for prospective

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“Recognize that success comes with time.

The Best Years of Your Life 29


and work. Most people seem to be looking for overnight success. That doesn’t usually happen. So they just need to be patient and realize that owning your own business means you have to work hard.” Sharon Pinder is president and CEO of The Pinder Group which she founded in May, 2007 along with the Top 100 MBE Awards Ceremony [www.top100mbe. com] She is also the author of On the Backs of Blacks – The Untold Story of the Minority Business Movement. For more information, visit www.thepindergroup. com, call 410-489-7098, or e-mail info@ thepindergroup.com 1. What’s the mission of your company? “The Pinder Group’s mission is to help businesses reach their full potential by providing strategic management, marketing and training. We help companies control their future by building specific action plans to accomplish strategy and direction. Our approach is to focus on results that are clearly defined and measurable. We offer solutions that are understood, valued and then acted upon. As the founder of the Maryland Top 100 MBE Awards Ceremony, our purpose is to highlight and celebrate the region’s top women and minority-owned businesses.” 2. What challenges do you face? “As a matter of background, I’ve had prior experience in doing a business start-up and I spent the last four years as the state’s first appointed Special Secretary in the Governor’s Office of 0 The Best Years of Your Life

Minority Affairs. That position allowed me to help hundreds of small women and minority owned businesses. I also teach entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland, University College and the University of Baltimore. Even with all these components, I face the same challenges as other women and minority business owners –– capitalization and access to the right opportunities. I may have the advantage of more knowledge in some of these areas but nonetheless, as a start up, the challenges remain the same.” .What are the perks of having your own business? “I obviously love and respect entrepreneurship. Innovation and entrepreneurship fuel our economy and create the path to wealth creation. The biggest perk of owning a business is the legacy you are able to shape that benefits your family and community.” . Any advice for prospective entrepreneurs? “I advise budding entrepreneurs to follow your dreams. If it is your passion, follow it. However be prepared. Before you step out into this abyss, make sure your financials are tight. Prepare for the worst of times so you can move ahead during the good times. If you are going to launch a business during this economic downturn, make sure you have enough savings to see you through the turbulent times. Undercapitalization of any business is the death of it. Be open to growth strategies that may take you out of your comfort zone. Understand the landscape and the importance of relationships.” A publication of the Afro-American Newspapers


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The Best Years of Your Life 31


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AFRO Senior Living Guide 2008  

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