Aging gracefully is a choice that takes courage and the ability to embrace change, advises award-winning actress Linda Evans who is known for playing Krystle Carrington in the 1980s drama “Dynasty.”
Evans, who has lived in Rainier, near Olympia, for 30 years, is keynote speaker for the annual two-day Boomers and Beyond: Aging Successfully Conference on Friday and Saturday at the Spokane Convention Center. The conference, which includes presentations and resources for the elderly and their families, is a fundraiser for the Senior Assistance Fund of Eastern Washington that awards grants to nonprofits that provide services to low income seniors.
“Doing something out of the box is very stimulating,” said Evans, 72, in a recent telephone interview.
Evans, who also played Audra Barkley in the television show “The Big Valley” in the 1960s, is passionate about traveling the country encouraging people, especially aging women, to “jump in” and live their dreams and not let fear rule. She wants to inspire baby boomers and bring hope and inspiration in a culture that often doesn’t value aging.
Evans decided in her 60s to start overcoming her fears and insecurities by trying new things, such as acting on the live stage. In 2006 and 2007, Evans starred with Joan Collins in “Legends!,” a comedic play about two aging rival film stars. It was a challenge that remained terrifying every time she got on stage. On “Dynasty,” Collins played the vengeful ex-wife of Evans’ television husband, oil tycoon Blake Carrington. The two women’s on-screen catfights helped boost ratings and overtake the rival nighttime soap opera “Dallas” to become the No. 1 show in the Unites States.
Another leap was appearing on – and winning – “Hell’s Kitchen” in 2009, the British reality TV show about cooking, another one of her loves. In 2011, Evans wrote “Recipes for Life: My Memories” an autobiography that includes her favorite recipes and anecdotes about life including aging and her high-profile romances.
“The very best thing about getting older is you get wiser,” Evans said, adding that older age is the perfect time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do but were too busy caring for others or a career. “Do not have fear.”
The conference begins Friday with a variety of workshops on topics such as completing your own advanced care plan to legal planning for the aging and learning how to talk with your doctor. There is also a session on mental health issues commonly found in older adults and changes to the care system. Another segment is on understanding hoarding, and also how to downsize to a smaller living space in addition to a talk on prescription drugs and how to navigate the Medicare maze. Evans is the lunch speaker Saturday.
Also during the conference, participants can watch a screening of the “Age of Love” documentary film about finding love later in life, in addition to other activities such as fly tying, enjoying gardening as you age and computer classes for seniors.
“We don’t just age out at 65 and go out to pasture,” said SAFE president Joyce McNamee, who is helping organize the event. “We have a lot longer life span.”
That’s why the conference is trying to mix fun with the educational aspect of preparing for old age before an emergency forces people to make decisions. The idea is to also attract not just baby boomers but their children and anyone interested in aging well.
SAFE is the fundraising arm of Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington. Last year it awarded $4,500 in grants to local senior service programs including Care Cars, SNAP and the Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels. McNamee said the meals program served an addition 425 meals because of the grant.
SAFE raises money to help supplement programs for underserved seniors. Many of these programs are suffering funding shortages because, McNamee said, Congress hasn’t reauthorized the Older Americans Act, which is problematic as the largest generation ever is aging and requiring more services.
Besides the workshops and activities, the exhibit hall will be filled with vendors and booths with area resources.
“The money we raise stays in the community,” McNamee said. “These programs are really bare bones. We target those low income and most frail first.”
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