Senior trailblazers honored for positive aging

Oscar and Lourdes Dela Cruz moved to Atlanta from the Philippines some 20 years ago because they didn’t want to quit working at 60, the mandatory retirement age in their native country.

Both found work here and retired at age 70 instead, but they’ve never really slowed down. Oscar, 79, and Lourdes, 80, who have been married for 54 years, maintain an active lifestyle in Lutheran Towers, a Midtown high-rise community. Oscar is finishing the first year of a two-year term as president of the Resident Council, and both are always looking for ways to help out their neighbors.

Others frequently ask how they stay so young-looking and active, and maintain such a close-knit relationship with each other, Oscar said. “My wife and I try to be a model to our fellow residents,” he said.

The Dela Cruzes were among 20 older adults recently recognized as examples of positive aging by LeadingAge Georgia, a statewide association representing more than 170 not-for-profit and other mission-driven organizations providing senior housing, health care and services.

The group’s Senior Vice President Jacquelyn Thornton says 2016 Positive Aging honorees are “unsung heroes” who were trailblazers in their early life and continue to stay engaged and make a difference in their communities.

“These are people who really want to do all they can while they can,” she said.

The group includes 92-year-old Lucille Hill of Atlanta, a former Fulton County nurse and a civil rights activist who entertains neighbors with detailed stories of a career in public health during segregation. She sought and obtained funding to build the Southside Health Center.

“Life’s been good to me,” Hill said, recalling lifelong lessons and a strong spiritual faith passed down from her adopted mother that have guided her through the years.

Another honoree, Carolyn Hartfield, 68, of Atlanta, inspires and encourages others to lead an active lifestyle. She travels the country participating in various senior sports tournaments and competitions, and she leads group hikes and other outdoor activities. She has almost 5,000 followers in the various outdoor adventure groups she has organized.

Hartfield called the Positive Aging award the “best recognition” she’s ever received. “All I’m doing is having fun and living my life,” she said. “I’m living my best life right now.”

Former Ambassador Andrew J. Young, 84, was given the group’s highest honor, the Positive Aging Icon Image Award, for his lifelong contributions locally and globally.

LeadingAge Georgia and its educational arm, the Georgia Institute on Aging, host the annual gala to raise awareness for quality elder care and to fund year-round educational opportunities for paraprofessionals, professionals, and family members who provide care for seniors.

Thornton said LeadingAge members focus on person-centered care for the elderly. The support given to these older adults allows them to age well in place and in turn give back to these same groups and care providers. “It really does take a village,” she said.


  • Sheila Blake, Presbyterian Homes of Georgia, Austell. Former nurse serves as resident council chair for her community. Has served on several state and local boards and committees.
  • Thomas Bolton, Asbury Harris Epworth Towers, Atlanta. Volunteer for Meals on Wheels Atlanta and at the Vivian T. Minor Adult Day Health Center.
  • Cecilia Bonds, Briarcliff Oaks, Atlanta. Bonds is president of the Briarcliff Oaks Resident Council and is active in her church in leadership and volunteer roles.
  • Elaine Davies, Carlyle Place, Macon. Retired from a 40-year career as nurse and psychotherapist in mental health, Davies volunteers with organizations concerned with global issues of hunger.
  • The Rev. W.L. Cottrell, Meals on Wheels Atlanta and the New Horizons Senior Center. Cottrell was pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Atlanta for 53 years. He has been a community activist for affordable housing and quality health care in the Vine City community.
  • Oscar and Lourdes Dela Cruz, Lutheran Towers, Atlanta. The couple moved to the U.S. from the Philippines when they faced mandatory retirement at age 60. In Atlanta, they both retired at age 70 and continued to remain active through volunteer service.
  • Susan Lawton Daugherty, Presbyterian Village, Austell. Former teacher who also led the evolution of the Girl Scouts in Georgia. Active in clubs and leadership positions at Presbyterian Village Community.
  • Carolyn Hartfield, AARP, Atlanta. The 68-year-old has traveled the country participating in various senior sports tournaments and competitions. She started several groups to inspire and encourage others to lead an active lifestyle.
  • Lucille Hill, Wesley Woods Towers, Atlanta. Former Fulton County nurse and health advocate, Hill sought and obtained grant funding for the Southside Health Center. Active volunteer at Wesley Woods Towers.
  • Viola Howard, Campbell-Stone Apartments-Buckhead, Atlanta. Tireless volunteer at Campbell-Stone, both holding leadership positions and filling tasks such as reading to the visually impaired.
  • Dosh Jackson, A.G. Rhodes Health & Rehab, Atlanta. Jackson was honored posthumously as the 105-year-old nominee passed away prior to the gala. He was a pioneer in electronics, operating a successful repair and installation business in Atlanta for 30 years.
  • Margie McClelland, Decatur Christian Towers, Decatur. Former nurse who overcame many life difficulties and started a battered women's shelter called "The Butterfly House."
  • Gracie Phillips, Lenbrook Continuing Care Retirement Community, Atlanta. Phillips was executive assistant for former Georgia Gov. Joe Frank Harris, and has continued serving in leadership roles at Lenbrook. She was president of the resident association in 2015.
  • Lorene Pilcher, Canterbury Court, Atlanta. She used her experience as a career educator (retired Georgia State University research professor) to help her community form a college scholarship program for its employees.
  • Francie Ross, St. Anne's Terrace, Atlanta. Active in numerous clubs, her church, St. Anne's Episcopal Church, and also activities at St. Anne's Terrace. The former speech pathologist is also passionate about golf and at age 88 shot her second hole in one.
  • Shirley H. Scieneaux, Alice Williams Towers, Lithonia. Former social worker in Louisiana, Scieneaux relocated to Atlanta after losing everything in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She helped other survivors relocate to senior communities in the metro area. Scieneaux writes and produces plays for residents of her complex.
  • Claire Swann, Talmage Terrace Senior Living, Athens. Longtime director of admissions at the University of Georgia, Swann remains active in numerous organizations and clubs in the Athens area, as well as her church, Athens First United Methodist.
  • Harold Tinley, St. George Village, Roswell. Expert wood worker who continues to enjoy this as a hobby in spite of the loss of sight in one eye.
  • Barbara Wenzel, 82, A.G. Rhodes Health and Rehab at Wesley Woods, Atlanta. Volunteers three days a week at A.G. Rhodes Health and Rehab, greeting and helping staff and residents.