Laura Newland, director, DC Office of Aging and Community Living
Laura Newland, director, DC Office of Aging and Community Living

Happy holidays! We’re looking forward to welcoming all of you to the Mayor’s 21st Annual Senior Holiday Celebration on December 19th at the DC Armory. If you haven’t gotten your ticket yet, you can reserve one online at, visit a senior site, or give us a call at 202-724-5626. Our theme this year is also our agency’s new tagline—live boldly!

Last month, I saw a news article about Ms. Willie Murphy, an 82-year-old bodybuilder who fought off a home intruder so hard that she sent him to the hospital! When police officers arrived, they asked to pose for a photo with her. When I read this story, I was glad that Ms. Murphy was unharmed, and I was a little irritated with the journalist and the police for perpetuating the stereotype that seniors are frail and helpless.  

Ms. Murphy found herself in a circumstance that no one should have to face, much less our seniors, but the intruder got more than he bargained for. Just like so many people in our society, he underestimated how bold, energetic, and determined seniors are.

What’s so extraordinary about Ms. Murphy isn’t just that she beat off a home intruder—although that’s impressive! It’s that she didn’t let anyone tell her that she’s too old to lift weights or too frail to lift so much. Her age didn’t get in the way of her doing what she wanted to do every day.

Now, not everyone is a competitive weight-lifter like Ms. Murphy. But in my time getting to know our District seniors, I’ve thought a lot about what makes someone extraordinary—about what makes an extraordinary life. What I’ve learned from you is that choosing kindness, love, and compassion—for yourselves and others—makes for an extraordinary life.

Being extraordinary doesn’t always make the front-page news. Whether you choose to be a body builder, dancer, volunteer, advocate, friend, mom, grandma, neighbor, or the many other choices you make in your life, living boldly means treating each day as an opportunity to love more, learn more, and laugh more.

During my time as director, I’ve met some extraordinary seniors. People like Mr. John Bassett who has volunteered at Oasis Senior Center for many years serving lunch daily to men experiencing homelessness. I’ve spoken to residents at senior buildings who take time to knock on doors to remind their neighbors that lunch is being served downstairs. This is extraordinary.

There are also people like Ms. Trayci Campbell who spends her free time visiting with homebound seniors, running errands, and checking in on them through her volunteer role with the Mary’s Center Senior Peer Support Program. Or Ms. Olivia O’Neal who works to create a safe space for LGBTQ seniors to openly talk about their unique challenges in her volunteer role as a peer facilitator. Then there’s also Ms. Olivia Chase, a grandparent who is serving as the primary caregiver for her 11-year-old grandson. This is extraordinary. 

In DC, we have the good fortune of having a vibrant senior community. We see it every day in you. You’re extraordinary, and you exemplify what it means to live boldly at every age.

Our holiday celebration is for you. We’re celebrating all the extraordinary things that you accomplish every single day. You may not make the front-page news, but we see you, we appreciate you, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to celebrate you! Thank you for showing us how to live boldly! I can’t wait to see you on December 19th.

Aging is Living!

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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