Opinion

‘Blue Skies’ Provides Seniors with New Opportunities

John.spevak@gmail.com June 20, 2014 

‘Blue skies are smiling on me,” according to the lyrics of an oldies song. In Los Banos “Blue Skies” is creating smiles by providing unique opportunities for older adults.

Blue Skies is a free senior peer discussion group formed this year by older adult Telia Nunn, a Los Banos woman who saw a need for senior citizens to gather and talk about their concerns.

The group meets the first and third Monday of each month, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., in the Arts and Crafts Room of the Los Banos Community Center at 645 Seventh St.

Blue Skies is a service provided thanks to the help of the Los Banos Golden Agers, a group that has been serving older adults in Los Banos for many years.

The purpose, as well as the format, of Blue Skies is simple: bring senior citizens together in a small group and let them talk about what’s on their minds, especially their concerns.

They can ask questions, express frustrations, share ideas, and find out what local services are available to seniors. They also listen to speakers on topics relevant to seniors.

Blue Skies facilitator Telia Nunn has been active in Los Banos for several years, including serving as a volunteer tutor for the county library’s Read and Succeed literacy program. Last year, after her husband Rex passed away, she decided she wanted to do even more for her community.

In talking with other older adults, Telia (pronounced te-LEE-ah) realized they had many concerns, regarding issues like aging and independence, healing from loss, and accessing resources. She thought they needed an opportunity to talk with other seniors about these concerns.

The group has been meeting since January. It consists of eight to 13 people who gather and talk. Some of the topics they have already discussed include bridging life transitions, staying upbeat, coping with and enjoying life, and planning for the future.

“The more I talk with my fellow older adults,” Telia said, “the more I realize so many of us are dealing with loneliness and are seeking a greater purpose in our lives. This group enables them to talk about these and related issues.”

For more than 40 years the Golden Agers have been providing fellowship and fun for seniors in Los Banos, including a popular monthly dinner and periodic trips out of town.

But this is the first time that the Golden Agers is providing the opportunity for seniors to gather in a small group and talk about concerns older adults face.

As Telia spreads the word about Blue Skies, through fliers and talks at clubs and organizations, she has received a great deal of support. “So many people see the same needs that I do.”

From Telia’s perspective, the ideal size of a Blue Skies discussion group is 10 or fewer participants, which gives each person in the group a real opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings.

Telia has also heard from people in Merced, Gustine, Dos Palos and Santa Nella who like her concept and would like similar “Blue Skies” groups to meet in their cities.

“The idea of bringing seniors together to talk about issues that concern them makes so much sense,” Telia said. “Many people have asked why hasn’t a group like this been started before. I tell them I’m not sure why it hasn’t happened in the past, but it’s happening now!”

Telia is at a point where she needs other persons to work with her to share their ideas and energy. She is hoping she can form a network and partnership with other persons and groups in Los Banos and Merced County who recognize the same needs she has identified, including church groups and service clubs.

She is open to any ideas and would appreciate if people interested in this concept would call her at 503.679.3321.

“I feel I’ve identified a need,” Telia said, “that will only increase as our population ages. And I have the energy and desire to pursue ways of meeting this need. I just need the help of other people, probably many other people, to do what needs to be done.”

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, a California Newspaper Publishers Association Blue Ribbon finalist for 2013, are encouraged, and can be sent to john.spevak@gmail.com .

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