Topics on Aging

By Juan Gallo

The Freedom to Enjoy Life

August 8, 2022

The freedom to enjoy life
Alita Urban is a Heart2Heart volunteer who turns 75 this week. She once worked as an Everglades tour guide for a Florida housing development company in the 1970s. 

We asked her, and three others, to tell us what it means to grow older. Here’s what she had to say. 

My name is Alita. You don’t have to call me Ms. Urban. Alita is just fine.

I consider myself a volunteer. I don’t think it matters if you’re young or old. As long as you’re doing the job.

I like the term “seasoned saints.” To me, that means somebody who’s been around the block a few times. I guess I call myself a “seasoned senior.” Say that three times fast.

Being a senior is freedom to slow down or freedom to enjoy life. I’ve read lots of books about people becoming poets and artists at age 90. You get to do something you’ve always wanted to do.

As a young child, I thought an old lady had a cane; gray hair; a short, curly hairdo and a hat … They almost had a uniform to show their age. But we don’t do that now.

I don’t need to be in the office. I don’t need to earn a paycheck. I don’t need to be traveling all over the world. I mean, that would be nice, if I had an escort.

I get to tell people what it was like back in my day and what conveniences you have as life progresses. It’s fun to grow old because you see all the changes taking place in the job force and in the computer industry. My goodness.

I remember when I was 8 years old, I was talking to my mother in the kitchen about someone’s sister who lived down the street. She was 20, and I said, “Oh, she’s old.”

My mother, who was in her 50s, told me, “Oh, Alita. To me, she’s not old.”

I couldn’t wrap my head around that. As a young child, I thought an old lady had a cane; gray hair; a short, curly hairdo and a hat. And a dress. Most of them wore dresses in those days.

They almost had a uniform to show their age. But we don’t do that now.

I was surprised the first time I saw an old lady wearing blue jeans. She was thin, and I thought, “Maybe it doesn’t matter.” Now they wear anything they want.

And to see an old lady in a bathing suit – I used to think that was awful. Now, I think they should enjoy themselves. They’re not trying to show off. They just want to enjoy the beach.

I’m going to take advantage of opportunities. There’s a trip that some people I know are going on – to Alaska. That may be on my bucket list. I want to do some more things and go to more places.

Lately, I’ve been doing things with my church. I also feed the homeless on Saturdays. I’m still doing a lot of the things I was doing. It’s nice to be connected to Heart2Heart and things like that so you meet more people and just share stories.

If you eat well and take all the precautions to stay well, you can have a good time in life. 

To volunteer with Alita, check out Heart2Heart’s outreach opportunities.

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Juan Gallo
Juan Gallo is the CEO of Heart2Heart Outreach, where he oversees the mobilization of volunteers to provide hope, share love and restore purpose to the lives of the aging population across South Florida.

He also serves as a local pastor and as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University, where he is teaching a course on diversity and aging. Juan has a master’s degree in counseling and psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor intern.

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Juan Gallo

This blog is a frank conversation about what it means to age in our society.

I want us to consider what a wider range of diverse experiences when we talk about aging. I want to reflect on how we, as a community, want our neighbors and our mothers and fathers and our grandparents to live out their latter decades of life. I want us to consider each one of their voices as we strive to meet their needs.

Join me for weekly discussions about what it means to be a senior in South Florida and how we can and should respond to the growing needs of the aging population.

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