"Aging seems to be the only way to live a long life."

-- Kitty O'Neill Collins

"Senior!"

A lot of folks shudder when they hear that word. To them, it implies old age -- you know, wrinkles, thinning hair, chronic health problems and the like. To make matters worse, we are constantly barraged by TV commercials that call the inevitable to our attention in order to promote their products to look and feel young.

In a way it's unfortunate that we in America don't pattern our lifestyles like other countries that revere their elderly whom they treat with utmost respect and dignity.

One explanation might be that we Americans have traditionally trained our children to be on their own by the time they are of age. On second thought, maybe things are changing. I hear more kids don't want to leave home or are returning back to live because of today's economy!

I never had the privilege of meeting my grandparents, and I regret not having told my folks how much I loved and appreciated them. But they knew my feelings all along, as my mother often told me before I left home that I would understand once I became a parent and had children of my own.

It seems like only yesterday I was able to play hoops and run rings around my 8-year old grandson. That was yesterday. I now have to apply all my effort to keep up with him and it's just a matter of time before he'll be suggesting I settle for a more sedentary sport like bingo or cards.


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There's no denying that folks are living longer today, which is a positive sign. But like most good things there's also the other side which cannot be overlooked -- health issues, financial assistance, transportation and the like. I plan to bring up some of these pressing issues in future columns.

I think it's a rare senior who would not want to take advantage of the countless benefits he or she is entitled to as an elder in the community. I still remember the day I became a lowly freshman in high school and couldn't wait to become a senior since seniors ruled the roost. So what changed our attitudes about becoming a senior?

I recently came across a quip that goes something like this: "Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live."

Communities that provide senior centers are a godsend, since one of the biggest problems confronting the elderly is loneliness. Contra Costa County is especially fortunate to have senior centers in every one of its cities of significant size. Many centers are considered state-of-the-art and were built within the past dozen years.

Pleasant Hill is the newest of the centers and opened in January. I'd driven by that building many times while it was under construction. My curiosity aroused, I finally decided to drop in one day and take a look around.

I arrived around 11 o'clock on a recent Tuesday morning. The well-illuminated foyer was filled with people and abuzz with activity.

A charming young woman appeared shortly and introduced herself as Kendra Luke. Kendra is supervisor in charge of the overall senior center operation. As she was ushering me into her office we began talking, and it didn't take long to see why she was selected for her assignment.

Since management is the single most important key to the success of any operation, regardless of how impressive the building might look, I asked Kendra to relate her sentiment about her work. This is what she had to say:

"I'm so excited to see the community enjoying the new senior center and confirming just how needed it was. Our doors opened and the flow of people has been continuous.

"I see new faces everyday and it thrills me to know we are able to provide recreational, educational and social opportunities for such a broad range of interests.

"We've been able to keep all of our previous activities, classes and programs as well as introduce so many new ones. We are only two months in and already we joke about how we'll need a bigger building soon to accommodate everyone."

The Pleasant Hill Senior Center currently boasts more than 2,200 members, many of whom live outside that city, and the center offers between 30-40 programs besides providing one of the area's most popular travel services.

I'm certain you've heard of the Seven Wonders of the World. In my opinion, the new senior center qualifies as one of the Seven Wonders of Pleasant Hill. And while you're there, tell Kendra I sent you.

Eizo Kobayashi is a Concord resident and a member of the Concord Senior Citizens Club. Contact him at columns@bayareanewsgroup.com.