A longtime national leader in the gerontology field will serve as the keynote speaker—and singer—at the Celebrating Seniors Week Closing Luncheon on Thursday, May 21st at Concordia University in River Forest.
Dr. Bob Atchley, who for nearly 25 years was the Director of the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, will complement his spoken points via his folk music delivery at the Koehneke Community Center, 7400 Augusta St.
“People process prose content one way and they process music a different way,” he said. “If you can come at the content from a more poetic or musical slant, that is a little different way of looking at the same material in conceptual terms.”
The talk begins at Noon and is part of a luncheon that wraps up a weeklong series of events in the 5th Annual Celebrating Seniors Week. Tickets for the event are $25 each; for more information, visit www.CelebratingSeniors.net.
The theme of the 75-year-old Atchley’s performance is “The Spirit of Service.”
“We often think of service as a role people play or a position they have in an organization, rather than in heart terms,” said Atchley. “But people often find that the experience of doing service is heart-warming.”
“If you really study it, you find that going as far back as the ancient world, service is a very time-tested path to spiritual growth,” he added. “That’s where I’m coming from.”
Among other roles and honors, Atchley is one of Sage-ing International’s “Council of Honored Sages” and much of his work has involved the concept and practice of “sages in service.”
“I believe this is a frontier of gerontology,” said Atchley. “Our service depends so much on our attitude, and that attitude stems from a spiritual connection that grows and evolves as we age. My concept of spirituality is mainly experiential, not so much conceptual or religious.”
A sampling of his song titles hint at the points that he covers: “Pay Close Attention,” “The Journey,” “Ms. Dynamite,” and “Searching for Soul.”
Dr. Lydia Manning, Associate Professor of Gerontology and director of the recently launched Center for Gerontology at Concordia University, met Atchley in 2002 and both have connections to Miami University and the Scripps Gerontology Center.
Over time, he became one of her mentors and in March she invited Atchley to perform.
“Dr. Atchley has had considerable impact on the field of gerontology. His pioneering work on spirituality and aging has been influential in my own teaching and research,” Manning said. “His performance will ignite passions and inspire all of us in our work with older adults.”
Atchley has shared his program for a variety of organizations, including the bi-annual conferences of Sage-ing International, the staff of the Alzheimer’s Association, and various types of people who serve older adults.
“When Lydia told me about Celebrating Seniors, I said, ‘Oh, it’s a big opportunity festival.’ It’s really celebrating and connecting older people with all different types of possibilities,” Atchley said. “That’s wonderful. That’s the way you want it.”
Atchley worked as a folksinger in college and performed and wrote songs sporadically throughout his adult life. He revived his musical career after 45 years as a university professor, during which time he authored more than 20 books.
From 1988 to 1990, he was president of the 10,000-member American Society on Aging; he has also served in numerous leadership positions in the Gerontological Society of America and the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.
Jim Flanagan, chairman of the Oak Park/River Forest Township Senior Services Committee, founded the Celebrating Seniors Coalition in 2010.
The not-for-profit organization draws from individuals, businesses, congregations, government agencies and other individuals and organizations that serve the senior population.
Annually, the group holds its weeklong celebration to coincide with Older Americans Month, sponsored by the Administration on Community Living, organized under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Nearly all of the events are free of charge for all comers. The sessions are geared toward education and entertainment, featuring the creative ideas of individuals and community organizations such as libraries, park districts, hospitals and senior service agencies.
Through its first four years, the Coalition has netted $25,000. Those funds are used to support a variety of initiatives to benefit seniors.
Celebrating Seniors has four main objectives: to provide financial support for seniors in need, 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.
To purchase tickets for the Closing Luncheon, please call 630-505-8375 or visit the event’s EventBrite page.
For more information about the Celebrating Seniors Coalition, please visit www.CelebratingSeniors.net or visit the organization’s social media pages. On Facebook: www.facebook.com/CelebratingSeniors; on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CelebratingSrs.
More information about Concordia University’s graduate programs is at http://gradschool.cuchicago.edu/
To learn more about Atchley’s musical background, visit http://bobatchley.com. For more about his speaking and singing, visit this YouTube channel.