'Senior Rangers' for NPS

Senior citizens gearing up for year full of activities

The Territorial Administration on Aging (TAOA) has a calendar full of activities to keep the territory's elderly population active and to use them as tools in helping to preserve the Samoan culture by passing on their knowledge to future generations.

Earlier this week, a group of 20 seniors, including TAOA director Evelyn Lili'o-Satele, reached a milestone, when they became the first class of TAOA seniors appointed as 'Senior Rangers' of the National Park Service.

According to Lili'o-Satele, as a senior ranger, they pledge to "explore, learn about, and help protect the National Park of American Samoa and all National Parks. Protecting the parks means I will share what I have learned with others and (leave no trace) by staying on trails and picking up trash by reducing and recycling."

They also pledge "to be a friend to the National Park and to our Planet Earth."

Becoming 'Senior Rangers' is just one of the many accomplishments Lili'o-Satele and the TAOA crew hope to celebrate with the more than 4,000 registered senior citizens who currently make up the TAOA family.

"This is a new program," the TAOA director told Samoa News yesterday, adding that there are so many other partnerships they have established with various government departments and agencies to keep the senior citizens busy and occupied.

"Our main goal is to assist our seniors by helping the 'whole person' and not just the programs," she said.

"We find ways to help our elderly learn about healthy living habits, having fun together, healthy eating, healthy lifestyles," she continued. "We try to expose them to community resources that can help them gain independent living skills by letting them make choices."

One of the programs Lili'o-Satele touched on is the congregated meals programs, which provides a setting for seniors to come together and enjoy each other's  company. "This helps rid them of loneliness and feelings of isolation which can contribute to health problems," she explained.

All of the 13 centers where meals can be picked up are church halls, with the exception of the Pago location which utilizes the TAOA center.

"Here, we have a big screen TV and activities that can keep them busy when they pick up their food," the TAOA director said, adding that seniors who are not able to pick up their meal can have their food delivered to their homes.

Lili'o-Satele shared that the programs set up for the elderly all have one purpose and that is, to provide means for them to learn something new, things that can lead to a better life and can be shared with their families.

She referred to their partnership with the ASCC Land Grant program which has helped TAOA develop a garden at their Pago Center.

"The purpose is to demonstrate how it is done so these seniors can go home, take what they learned, and create their own garden which can be used for financial and even health benefits," she said. "Again, these projects aim to help the individual as a 'whole'."

The Department of Health is also a TAOA partner, helping out with the Tai Chi and Hula program by monitoring vitals like blood pressure, weight, and sugar levels.

The Tai Chi program is to promote movement and balance which can, in turn, prevent falls, said the TAOA director.

For the National Park Service, Lili'o-Satele said their program is aimed at promoting a healthy environment and the biggest advantage is having the seniors take what they learn and teach it to their kids at home.

Other agencies that Lili'o-Satele said have supported TAOA in more ways than one, include KVZK-TV, ASTCA, the LBJ Medical Center, the Jean P. Hayden Museum, and also Neil's Ace Home Center whose crew came out and taught the old folks how to make smoothies.

Even the gang from the AS Department of Homeland Security have stopped by to help with evacuation drills. During the 2009 deadly tsunami, the TAOA center in Pago was submerged in water and the catastrophe claimed the life of an elderly woman who was there that morning.

For now, a field trip to the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center is being planned, with 150 seniors expected to take part. Even a visit to the Feleti Barstow Public Library is being discussed, whereby the seniors will have a chance to speak to young children there.

In addition to activities, Lili'o-Satele said their employment agency is working hard to help those seniors who want to return to the workforce by providing them with the necessary training and skills.

She said some have indicated their wish to learn basket weaving and carving, as a private enterprise, while others have expressed their hope of getting an office position in the government and private sector.

Lili'o-Satele said there are plans to offer computer training and lessons in word processing and spreadsheets, as well as classes to teach them how to write a resume and fill out a job application.

"Seniors hold the secrets to our past," Lili'o-Satele said. "They know our culture, our language and these are things that provide us with a better understanding of who we are, and why we are the way we are. Focusing on the past will help us in the future."

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