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March 6, 2012 > Gold in Gray: local 'senior leader' honored

Gold in Gray: local 'senior leader' honored

Submitted By Meena Nair

Myrla Raymundo is passionate about helping people, aging issues and community betterment. After retiring as an Alameda County Commissioner, Raymundo began volunteering for the county in numerous ways, including her leadership with Fremont's Community Ambassador Program for Seniors representing the Filipino community and the St. Anne Catholic Parish. She recruits and helps train new volunteers regarding local culturally-appropriate resources for older adults, as well as leading meetings and outreach events for the Filipino community. Raymundo is also Founder and President of the Filipino American Association of Alameda County, President of Friends of the Union City Library, advisor to her parish's senior organization and also served for 17 years on the Union City Planning Commission.

In recognition of her outstanding contributions to community building and healthy aging, Raymundo was selected as one of 29 seniors throughout the state to receive a "California Senior Leaders Award" from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and The California Wellness Foundation. The award, presented every other year for the past 10 years, honors Californians aged 60 to 90+ who were chosen for their outstanding contributions to community building, healthy aging and social justice.

The award ceremony, on February 25, 2012, was the culmination of a two-day event in Oakland's historic Jack London Square, designed to shine the spot light on the often invisible volunteer role of California's rapidly growing senior population. The awardees participated in two days of training and recognition, during which skill building sessions on topics like working with the mass media and fundraising in tough economic times were interspersed with networking sessions. Participants have been linked with School of Public Health graduate students who will check in with them bi-monthly over the next 15 months, learning from their experiences and arranging technical assistance as needed on their community building and healthy aging projects.

"The inter-generational component of the program is one of its greatest assets," said Analilia Garcia, a former doctoral student with the program who now serves as project director and is also a lecturer at San Jose State University. "Student participants learn at least as much as the seniors, and they learn from the masters." Also participating in the program this year are three Senior Leaders from earlier cohorts, who introduced the new group to the cross-class California Senior Leaders Alliance, created to build on the talents and energy of this diverse leadership group to educate the public and policy makers alike on key issues facing seniors and their families, and potential solutions.

"Not only have seniors been called our only expanding natural resource," says UC Professor Meredith Minkler, who developed the program, "but we now have strong scientific studies showing that active engagement with life is one of the most important contributors to a healthy old age. A project like this one can both honor seniors for their invaluable contributions and, by supporting them in this work, hopefully contribute to their own healthy aging as well."

With the induction of the 10th anniversary class, more than 150 California Senior Leaders have been honored and many continue to work their own communities, as well as together in the state Capitol, to work for change. In doing so, Senior Leaders like Myrla Raymundo are helping change our perception and expectations "retirement" and later life.

"Give it to a busy person and it will get done," is how Raymundo sums up her life-long community service.

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