Golden Agers ministry provides needed social outlet for seniors
by William J. Dagendesh
Marie Hall, right, hosts “To Tell the Truth” with participants Ray Galuska, Lou Orleans and Mike Peretto. (Photo courtesy of Peg Orleans)
COLORADO SPRINGS. A local group of seniors is using food and friendship to encourage and empower others to help spread God’s Word.
The Golden Agers is a social ministry of Holy Apostles Parish that meets monthly to share a potluck meal, participate in an activity and brief business meeting, and spread God’s Word. The organization provides the entree, and members bring other dishes, veggies and desserts.
According to President Peg Orleans, Golden Agers originated from a group of retired parishioners in 1977 who gathered for coffee after daily Mass and formed a social interaction. Co-founder and former group leader John Cook gave the group its name.
“He was affectionately known as the ‘Can King’ for all the aluminum recycling he organized. For decades, the Golden Agers used recycling money to fund some of their activities (bus trips to dinner theater performances in Denver, outdoor Stations of the Cross in San Luis Valley) and to donate rider mowers, coffee urns, flagpole and other items to the parish,” Orleans said.
The group’s official motto, “Caring, Sharing, Praying, Playing Together” is carried out during the meetings where members also observe the unofficial motto, “Life is Short, Eat Dessert First.” About 217 parishioners ages 50 and older comprise the group.
“Originally, the members were all retired, but when they chose the name Golden Agers, it became evident that 50 was the perfect age for membership,” said Orleans who has been with the group since 2013.
Members volunteer as hosts or assist with setting up serving and dining tables, prepare coffee and lemonade, heat or chill meals and wash dishes. “In the past, the hosts cooked the entree for the group, but as the average age of the group continued to climb, we had a sweetheart deal with The Village Inn who provided an entree at cost,” Orleans said.
“Cathy Slattery and Sandy Barnes have stepped up to prepare the main dish, again at cost, whenever the host is unable to do so. This has enabled us to keep the cost of the meal at $6, up from $3 when I joined.”
The group encourages children and caregivers of seniors who live alone and are unable to travel independently to bring parishioners to the luncheons. “For some members, it may be their only full, hot meal that month. For others, it may be the only social event in their lives,” Orleans said.
During her tenure as Activities Director, Marie Hall organized “To Tell the Truth,” based loosely on the old and recently-revived TV game show format.
“It was a wonderful way for members to get to know one another. When people realized that correct guesses led to better positions in the buffet line, participation increased exponentially,” Orleans said.
In the past, the group held two outings annually. In time, organizing trips became difficult due to members’ physical condition and rising costs. “There have been trips to Cripple Creek, tours of the Pioneer Museum and local institutions historically tied to the treatment of tuberculosis and our Emmaus Trip,” Orleans said.
“In the week after Easter, we meet the Risen Lord on the road by touring a local church or chapel of significant interest for its history, architecture or art, and usually have lunch together afterwards in a nearby restaurant.”
Members are encouraged to join in the holiday spirit. In October, members don Halloween costumes or other seasonal attire, and ugly Christmas sweaters in December. The group met for its annual turkey dinner on Thursday, Nov. 16, and will hold its annual ham dinner on Thursday, Dec. 21.
“When the parish formed a committee to prepare Christmas baskets for shut-ins, we were able to provide them with a suggested list of recipients. Sadly, because we were sending out so many mailings, we were able to learn of the members who were felled by COVID when their children went through their mail and got in touch with us,” Orleans said.
Except for its April Emmaus trip and July picnic, no projects are being planned.
“For years, the picnic was held at Fox Run Park in Black Forest, occasionally in American the Beautiful Park, or in the shady backyard of (deceased) Mary Jane Winkler,” Orleans said.
“When it became evident that many regularly attending members weren’t going to Fox Run Park, Marie Hall began hosting the picnic on her property in Black Forest. That was important during the COVID-19 lockdown when we couldn’t meet in the church hall and many members were living in near isolation.”
Orleans said the group provides an important social outlet for seniors of the parish and city. This was evident during COVID-19, when parishioners struggled to stay in contact through monthly newsletters, Zoom livestream and outdoor meetings.
The group has contributed financially to the parish through its aluminum recycling program, and interacted with the preschool. Also, the group has scheduled speakers from the Better Business Bureau to discuss how seniors can avoid scams.
Membership is open to anyone 50 or older. Applicants needn’t be a member of Holy Apostles Parish or even be a Catholic, as members from throughout Colorado Springs and Peyton comprise the group.
Golden Agers doesn’t ask prospective members to provide their age, only the birth month and wedding anniversary if both spouses are members.
“There are at least a dozen members in their nineties. I estimate our average age in the low eighties, so we are happy to have younger, more able-bodied members join us as they retire,” Orleans said.
The Golden Agers meet from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., every third Thursday of the month in the parish hall, 4925 N. Carefree Circle. To learn more, call the parish office at 719-597-4249.