Author: Karla Jimenez

FEAST: Folks of Every Age Sharing a Table

On the evening of April 25, eleven people made their way through the bloom-filled walkways at the Botanical Gardens into a room holding a colorful table set for a dinner party. These men and women, ranging in age from 22 to 87 years old, were not attending just any dinner party. They were guests at the inaugural FEAST gathering.  FEAST is part of a programmatic effort by the Partnerships in Aging Program to create intentional space for intergenerational conversations and connections. In a town where students live, work, and play on campus, and many retirees do the same in their own spaces, this dinner party with a purpose aims to bring the two populations together for one special evening. FEAST fosters connections and encourages meaningful dialog through the sharing of food and guided conversation around a universal topic. The theme for this evening’s FEAST was ‘Celebration.’

FEAST guests at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Photo credit: Carol Gunther-Mohr.

After introductions and informal conversation, the guests were asked to share a story or two about a memorable celebration. The conversation wound its way through jubilant stories of travel and weddings to a touching tale of a music-filled 50th anniversary gathering. Though the stories were vastly different, themes of family, joy, and the congregating of loved ones emerged. One guest told of her 1,200-mile canoe trip taken when journeys were made with paper maps and compasses.  Several guests shared reflections on the way celebrations can be woven into events typically associated with grief or courage. We heard about memorial services, remembrance traditions, and coming out.  Story after story about celebrations of love and loss opened a window into the memory of another person around the table until, much too soon, the evening came to an end. Tearful hugs were exchanged and genuine invitations to join groups and swap recipes wafted through the crisp night air as the guests slowly made their way back through the moonlit gardens.

The table, now empty, will be set again in the fall when FEAST officially embarks on its unique, dynamic, and delicious intergenerational journey with Folks of Every Age who want to Share the Table.

Downsizing and Decluttering: The Organizing Extravaganza, Part 2

When it comes to decluttering, there’s often a gap between thinking about it and doing it.  To address this gap, Orange County Department of Aging hosted an event that made it easier for community members to take action on their decluttering goals.

On November 18, the Department hosted part 2 of “The Organizing Extravaganza” at the Seymour Center.   At the event, community members unloaded their excess papers, sharpened their eye for what’s valuable, and obtained sound advice about how to downsize… liberating them from their stuff!  The event was created by an interdisciplinary planning team that included leaders from the Department on Aging, Charles House Association, UNC’s Partnerships in Aging Program, a Planning consultant, and an intern from UNC’s School of Social Work.

The event invited Shred Ace (a shredder truck), appraisers, professional organizers, senior-focused moving companies, and real estate agents specializing in senior housing to provide invaluable decluttering guidance and resources. For a full list of exhibitors, check out the list here.

Community member dumping paper for shredding. Photo credit: Sarah Parkins

Over 100 attendees shared their appreciation for the event, particularly highlighting the importance of the onsite appraisers. Eileen Dawson, a community member, states that the she had been meaning to have items appraised before making decluttering decisions. The event allowed Eileen “the opportunity to get a thumbs up, thumbs down answer” on the value of her belongings.  Another community member, Cindy Gaines, said the organizing extravaganza allowed her to “confirm that the stuff that none of the kids want isn’t worth anything.”  As a result, the event gave Cindy the confirmation to “continue decluttering and getting rid of our stuff”.

Leland Little Auctions. Photo credit: Sarah Parkins

Alice Barrow also shared a similar sentiment, stating that she was motivated to go through old documents and get rid of the excess.  Then, for the fun of it, she brought on old clock to be valued by the LeLand Little appraisers.

Matt Murley of Shred Ace described an additional benefit of the Extravaganza: saving trees. He shares that Shred Ace “shredded and recycled 4,220 lbs. of paper at the event, which is 2.11 tons of paper.  For every ton of paper recycled, 17 trees are saved, so [the] event saved 36 trees!”

The Department of Aging understands how downsizing and decluttering is an ongoing effort that doesn’t stop after one event. However, the Organizing Extravaganza was just one of many resources to help seniors take control of their lives and their stuff, one step at a time.

Prep to Sell. Photo credit: Sarah Parkins


Orange County Solid Waste Management Department. Photo credit: Sarah Parkins

Decluttering and Regaining Control of your Life: The Organizing Extravaganza, Part 1

How do we get rid of our clutter and retake control of our lives?

Your documents: What to save? How long do you save it? What do you toss?

Those questions were explored in Part 1 of “The Organizing Extravaganza”, a two-part event that engages community members in decluttering and downsizing all the stuff in their lives. The Orange County Department of Aging hosted Part 1 on October 9, and featured Keynote speaker Jane Armstrong, MSW along with panel speakers Colin Austin, estate planning attorney, Leland Little, President and Principal Auctioneer of Leland Little Auctions, and Tracy Lynn, senior move associate with Professional Relocation Options.

“This [event] is brilliant! This is the exact conversation we should be having,” says Keri Boyette, a community member in the audience. As a realtor and owner of Prep to Sell—a home staging company—Ms. Boyette intimately knows the importance of decluttering:

“This is a message for all of us. For many who have jobs and kids, decluttering is an afterthought. But when you are a senior adult and health becomes an issue, and you have the time to address it, you are opening Pandora’s box. I was sitting [at the event] thinking so many people in the room may not have thought about this. These are people who had parents who came from the great depression. They learned not to throw things away. It’s not only overwhelming [to downsize], but there’s also a fear that they are going to give something away that’s important.”

Ms. Boyette goes on to explain that Jane Armstrong’s—and the rest of the panel’s—message was that decluttering gives you freedom to do the things you’ve wanted to do all along. Many of the items you have you might not actually need, or have very little to no value. Figuring out what you truly need is what will give you that freedom to downsize.

Part 2 will occur on November 18 at the Seymour Center in Chapel Hill. We’ll have shredder trucks, a food truck, appraisers, professional organizers and movers, plus real estate agents specializing in senior housing all ready to help you accomplish your future life goals.

Audience members at Part 1 of “The Organizing Extravaganza.” Photo credit: Cherie Rosemond.