Oh lordy, the active age turns 40

By Fran Kentling

The active age marks its 40th birthday this month. 

Strike up the band, blow out the candles and celebrate!

First, let’s thank the mother of the active age, the Older Americans Act (OAA). 

It was passed in 1965 because of Congressional concerns about community social services for senior citizens. 

This was the first of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society reforms, followed by the Civil Rights and Economic Rights acts.

OAA supports such programs as Meals on Wheels, in-home services, transportation, legal services, elder abuse prevention and caregivers’ support.

In 1977, Kansas established a Department of Aging. Wichita State University also created its gerontology program that year; today it’s called Aging Studies.

Gerontology is the study of the social, cultural, psychological, cognitive and biological aspects of aging. It’s medically distinguished from geriatrics, which specializes in the treatment of exiting diseases in older adults. Gerontologists mostly do research. 

This newspaper was created at WSU in 1979; it was named Active Aging. Its mission was to explore and write about the issues and information needs of seniors. There were few resources to connect older adults to helplful programs and agencies.

It was mailed free, as it is today, to seniors in Sedgwick, Harvey and Butler counties. As part of the OAA, the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging funnels a federal stipend to the newspaper. The grant originally covered the cost of the paper’s annual postage.    

Because of the increase in postage costs, today’s stipend covers about three months of our mailing expenses.  

In December 1988 Active Aging moved to Friends University. It left there at the end of 1999, when the school got out of the newspaper business.

The newspaper’s board agreed that it was important to the community that this voice for older adults be continued, so it took a leap of faith. 

It created Active Aging as an independent non-profit entity: Active Aging Publishing, Inc. 

It moved to 125 S. West St., Ste. 105, in January 2000 and continues to operate there. 

In 2014 the Board of Directors and staff decided to update the paper’s design and select a new name to more accurately reflect its readership. 

One information-gathering tool used was the formation of focus groups of men and women in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Each age group was asked to share their opinion of the newspaper and what they would like to see in it. 

The younger participants didn’t think there was enough editorial content relevant to them. Those in their mid-50s to mid-60s are often called the Sandwich Generation. They are still involved with their children’s lives, but are also taking on more responsibilities with their aging parents. 

Those 65 and older had some of the same interests, but also were looking for updates on Medicare, Social Security changes and other services. 

With the updated needs of all our our readers in mind, a new, brief mission statement was created: Educate, Entertain and Empower.

The active age made its debut May 2015. Judging by responses from some of our 100,000 readers, they like it. 

I’m delighted that we never threw the baby out with the bath water during our changes these past 40 years. 

Besides our staff and Board of Directors, many people need to be thanked as we celebrate: our RSVP volunteers, our advertisers, our readers and our donors. 

We are continually evolving and listening to all of you. And another special thank to our donors. You make this publication possible.

Fran Kentling is an active age board member and a former editor of the newspaper. Contact her at fran@kenting.net.

 

Many milestones in 25 years with the active age

By Becky Funke

I came to what was then called Active Aging in November 1989 after 11 years of working in community newspapers in several Kansas communities. 

Dorothy Belden, who had edited the newspaper for nine years and grown it into a powerful and respected voice for older adults, was retiring. I was acquainted with Dorothy through a professional organization and knew that hers would be big shoes to fill. 

Dorothy was a wonderful mentor, leaving me with a wealth of story ideas, contacts and sound advice. 

Active Aging was then operating under a unique arrangement at Friends University. From late 1988 through 1999, it was published under the umbrella of the Friends University Retirement Corporation, which in addition to the newspaper, owned and operated a senior housing complex on the east edge of the Friends campus.  

In 1998 Friends closed the senior housing complex to convert it into student housing and decided to divest itself of the newspaper. 

The dedicated volunteers on the advisory board – several of whom had been through a similar scenario at Wichita State University nine years earlier — started making phone calls and visiting with attorneys. They eventually found a law firm that would guide them through establishing a stand-alone corporation to continue to publish the newspaper. In late 1999, Active Aging Publishing Co, Inc., a 501c3 (non-profit) corporation was founded and purchased the newspaper from Friends University in January 2000. 

Another milestone came in 2015 –- well, it started in 2013 – when after months of consideration, a name change from Active Aging to the active age was approved.  The plan was to roll out the change at the beginning of our 35th year, in December 2013. That plan was derailed when I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia less than a week later. I didn’t return to work until July of 2014. The new name and a redesign rolled out in May of 2015. 

My editorial philosophy was simple: Everyone has a story to tell, and other people want to read those stories.  Our role was to find those stories and help people tell them.  

My editorial plan for each issue was to provide information and provide inspiration.  I wanted every issue to have something to enhance the quality of life of our readers, whether it was laughter over a bird feeder-robbing squirrel foiled by a Beethoven recording (from a Charles Pearson column in the early 90’s), or making a connection to a program or service that could help them, or getting useful information about health and wellness. 

One successful project was a series on end-of-life planning that earned the newspaper a national award in 2005. Freelance writer Nancy D. Borst and I spent months planning the package of stories on a most difficult topic.  

For more than a year after the series was published readers expressed their appreciation for our handling of topics ranging from hospice care to estate planning.  We quickly lost count of the number of reprints we sold to cover the cost of copying the package of stories. 

There were other awards and accolades over the years, but the most important feedback came from our readers. What I value most about my years at the active age/Active Aging is that I knew we made a difference in people’s lives.  From notes sent with donations, phone calls, and conversations when I was out in the community, readers responded to what we shared with them. 

Becky Funke was editor of the active age from December 1989 through April 2015.

 

CPAAA and the active age, in it for the long haul

By Monica Cissell

Central Plains Area Agency on Aging has proudly partnered with the active age for 40 years, working together to educate older adults about community resources, programming and other services available. 

A monthly newspaper specifically produced for seniors was a long-time dream of  CPAAA and its acting advisory council.

In the very first issue, in December, 1979, CPAAA board member Charles Mullikan stated: “A newspaper mailed directly can reach each and every older person in their homes, many of whom do not receive a newspaper.”

Wichita State University’s Gerontology Center and Journalism Department cooperated with CPAAA in providing editorial content and facilities to get what was then called Active Aging into the hands of seniors in Butler, Harvey and Sedgwick counties. A grant through CPAAA supported establishment of the paper and continues helping fund it today.

Although leadership at both CPAAA and the active age has changed over time, the goal to provide thought-provoking articles and critical service information has remained. It is hoped that this long-time partnership will live on for many more decades. 

Monica Cissell is director of information and community services for the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging. CPAAA is available to assist caregivers and seniors with service options and resource information- For more information visit www.cpaaa.org  or 1-855-200-2372.

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