Inspire Positive Aging Awards Nominees and Recipients

Congratulations to Our 2020 IPAA Recipients

Advocacy + Activism

Trudy James

Trudy James, 82

Trudy has dedicated years coming to understand death and grief in new and deeper ways. From 1989 to 2007, she has directed programs for AIDS CareTeam, Cancer Care Alliance and has served over 500 men and women CarePartners with AIDS. Trudy is a credentialed interfaith chaplain and owner of a small business called Heartwork. At age 76, she tried her hand at documentary filmmaking and created Speaking of Dying which coincides with her end-of-life planning sessions, annual retreats and Grief, Loss and the Holidays presentation. Trudy has become a social media pro and maintains her website and Facebook page for Speaking of Dying. Her offerings, happy demeanor, energy and her commitment to her work inspire many. Trudy says that getting older is a privilege and that her life is better than ever at 82. She is the oldest person in her yoga class; her commitment to mind, body, heart and spirit wholeness shows others what is possible for aging.

Community Service

Mohan Khandekar

Mohan Khandekar, 77

Retirement gave Mohan ability to take his passion for volunteering to new heights. He is an active volunteer and spends 20-22 hours per week in these various activities, but still finds time to be a loving and attentive family man. Mohan has been a lead volunteer at Northshore Senior Center, an Information Resource Person for SeaTac, an assistant badminton coach at Kirkland Middle School and Lake Washington High School, is a board member for the Kenmore Community Club (KCC), is the audio/ video/ still photography and graphics resource chief for IAWW (India Association of Western Washington), and works with children at the Seattle Art Museum in the “Youth and Family Programs” organized by the Seattle Architecture Foundation (SAF). The enthusiasm and good cheer with which he helps so many diverse communities is so visible, that it makes him a living example of a person who has aged well and inspires others to do the same.

Defining Inspiration

Val Brustad

Val Brustad, 73

Val leads a life that makes you think of aging in terms of impact rather than years. Having been a caretaker for his mother who had Alzheimer’s, he supported his wife who was an Alzheimer’s Association support group facilitator. After Val’s wife passes away unexpectedly, he stepped up and trained to continue the group in her honor. His sense of aging is communicated in terms of being part of a community and making sure that no one is left alone. Rather than focusing on his loss Val focused on the needs of others–on how he could step in and be service of others. Each person involved in the support group can attest to how Val’s words, his vulnerability, his wisdom has shaped their perspective to the disease, caregiving and grief. It is this influence and ability to leave a mark, that inspires those around him to be more forgiving to themselves, get up, and fight another day.

Health + Wellness

Shirin Velji

Shirin Velji, 81

A former teacher in Tanzania, Shirin continues to mentor and inspire everyone she meets. She loves to inspire and help people of all generations, especially the younger generations. She brightens the days of the residents she visits at the Skilled Nursing and Assisted Living department of Emerald Heights, where she also volunteered to make masks to protect them against Coronavirus.She volunteered at the Fitness Center where the Fitness Exam is done twice a year, cheering for the athletes and welcoming the spectators. Shirin worked for the South East Asia Operational Department to work on Urban Projects (Roads, Water, Housing, etc.) in Korea, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand. Her enthusiasm in her work is evident with the stories she shares and the lifelong friendships she has made. She has dedicated her life to helping others, and it’s truly inspiring.

Intergenerational Impact

Sadru Kachra

Sadru Kachra, 79

Having grown up in Kenya and seeing the living condition of those around him, he spent his whole life giving his to others to better their quality of life. One of his favorite projects, which he says was “heartwarming and satisfying” was building two extra classrooms to a one-room school. Now that he lives in Washington, Sadru continues to spend his time volunteering at the library and the senior center. His passion to serve others, even at the age of almost 80, motivates and encourages both me and many other people in my community to give to all the people around us. Sadru teaches the youth in my community to expand their knowledge outside of school, to go to college, and to volunteer throughout their professional lives. Once, he met Mother Theresa who, at a very old age, came to Kenya to attend an event in which his Lions Club distributed rice to the poor. He says that meeting her inspired him, and now he works hard to inspire others.

Lifelong Learning

Dori Gillam

Dori Gillam, 68

Dori is energetic, aging her way and nothing short of inspiring. She leads by example by living her life by her words and demonstrating what it means to age positively. Whether it’s climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, or participating in the Womxn’s March with her friends, both young and old, Dori lives life to the fullest. She spends a good deal of her time speaking about aging and hosting presentations designed to shift how we thinking about aging and our older neighbors. Through use of humor and personal stories, Dori teaches that your older years don’t have to be molded by preconceived ideas about aging; those years get to be molded by us with the support of community. She encourages people to advocate for themselves because she’s seen firsthand the dignity that can be erased as you age. Through Wisdom Cafés she ignites conversations about aging, even delving into topics that we usually don’t discuss when it comes to older adults.

2019 Award Recipients

  • Diane Thompson, Advocacy + Activism
  • Janet Jones-Preston, Advocacy + Activism
  • Sidney Rouse, Community Service
  • Marilyn Valentine, Defining Inspiration
  • Asefa Tesema, Health + Wellness
  • Marletta Iwasyk, Intergenerational Impact
  • Ann Root, Lifelong Learning

2018 Award Recipients

  • Jemanesh Demisse, Community Service
  • Hilke Faber, Advocacy + Activism
  • Merle Fister, Health + Wellness
  • Dianne Hansen, Intergenerational Impact
  • Ray Bradley, Lifelong Learning
  • Natalia Mendez, Defining Inspiration

2017 Award Recipients

  • Barbara Peete, Community Service
  • Feanette Black Bear, Advocacy + Activism
  • Michael Neguse, Health + Wellness
  • Pam Berry, Intergenerational Impact
  • Kelsi Watson, Lifelong Learning
  • Zen Fen Huang and Meng Qi Huang Chen, Outstanding Team
  • Fred Geraldsen, Defining Inspiration

2016 Award Recipients

  • Geraldine Allsopp, Health & Wellness
  • Richard (‘Dick”) Body, Community Service
  • Fai Coffin, Advocacy & Activism
  • Barbara “BJ” Johnson, Lifelong Learning
  • Dr. Dominick Minotti, Intergenerational Impact

2015 Award Winner

Eileen Broomell

Eileen Broomell, 89, is an educator, motivator, instructor, and a Eileen Broomell 2015 IPAA Winnerstrong believer of positive thinking. Eileen has been a Red Cross volunteer instructor/trainer in CPR, first aid and water safety for several decades. She ran her own business as a canoe river guide for 27 years. Eileen was an instructor at Highline Community College, and also coached Highline’s basketball and volleyball teams. In her retirement she continues to teach health, wellness, and exercise classes at several senior centers. Today Eileen is regularly at SeaTac Senior Center 3 times a week for her Senior Working Out Class, and has formed a strong relationship with other participants. Eileen continues to embrace new adventures. She has undertaken road trips to Florida and Alaska, and plans to visit Montana and New Mexico this summer.

2014 Award Winner

McCoy Khammany Sengsi

McCoy Khammany SengsiMcCoy Khammany Sengsi, 64, was a former Captain and police officer who escaped from the Communist takeover in Laos, starting a new life in 1980 with his family in the U.S. He became a U.S. citizen in 1986. He has demonstrated great community involvement, particularly in the Seattle’s Laotian community, where he is known as a liaison, community leader and mentor. He helped establish the Lao Veterans Association of Washington State and helps people find resources to learn and establish a new way of living. He was nominated by his brother-in-law, Khamphay Muongchanh, who wrote, “He is a great man who offers mentorship and social services without ever expecting anything in return.”

2013 Award Winner

Dotti Lydon

Dottie LydonDotti Lydon is a remarkable person and dedicated volunteer. The active 78-year-old is the recipient of the 2013 Inspire Positive Aging Award (IPAA). The award presented annually by Senior Services recognizes a deserving elder whose life is marked by service, engagement and a certain “joie de vivre.” These are the characteristics that inspire people who know and nominate an elder and why Senior Services bestows this honor every year. Dotti Lydon started volunteering in the kitchen of Lifelong AIDS Alliance in July of 2011. She was 76 years old. Nominator and Executive Chef at Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Wendy Northcutt, said, “When I first met Dotti I was a little concerned how her stamina would hold up in the kitchen. Boy, did she prove me wrong! Dotti has the energy and stamina of a 25-year-old. She is eager to help and does not hesitate to take on any task we ask her to do.” On any given day you might see Dotti peeling and dicing 100 lbs. of potatoes, slicing 75 lbs. of carrots, or helping to package 250-400 meals during her three-hour shift. Her enthusiasm to complete a task is noteworthy.  She is quick to come in when we send out requests for help during busy times or when other volunteers cannot come in. It isn’t just the kitchen where you’ll find Dotti volunteering her time and enthusiasm. Last year a call went out to the volunteer group at Lifelong to make 3,000 condom kits for the Gay Pride parade. Dotti easily made one-third of the kit [for the event]. “That’s a thousand kits,” says Kristina Sperline, Volunteer Coordinator. Even after the Gay Pride parade, Dotti is still taking kits home to make every week.  She says “it gives her something to do” when she is watching TV. Dotti has spent her life in service to others. She was a registered nurse for over 40 years.  When we asked Dotti how she came to volunteer with Lifelong AIDS Alliance, she responded by saying people who are HIV positive are very near to her heart.  “Because of that, I just wanted to give back to the community,” she said with tears in her eyes. “We are so lucky to have Dotti volunteer here at Lifelong,” says Northcutt. Her enthusiasm, energy and dedication are an inspiration to all of us who have the privilege of working with her, she says.

2012 Award Winner

Bill Sleeper

Ninety-six-year-old Bill Sleeper works to help other seniors discover the ways that technology can enrich their lives. Bill believes that technology offers seniors ways to engage with society. The retired engineer says he is constantly finding new opportunities to make technology a part of his life, whether it’s posting on Facebook, updating his Twitter feed, finding new apps for his iPhone or sharing photographs from his travels.

Bill Sleeper
“With a smart phone, you have the complete information of the world in your hands. I find that many seniors are scared of using smart phones or computers and I want to show them how easy it is and how much fun you can have. It really is magic.”

Sleeper has lived at Merrill Gardens for the past seven years. Watching him share his enthusiasm for technology with his peers inspired the company to launch a video series starring Sleeper. He uses his sharp wit and sense of humor to make technology less intimidating for seniors. “Bill Sleeper is really an amazing man. When you watch his videos and see how connected he is to his family and friends through technology, you really hope that you can be just like him when you grow up. His passion for helping other seniors is really exciting and he is having a big impact,” says Bill Pettit, Merrill Gardens president. Sleeper travels to the Merrill Gardens communities holding special Tech Whiz classes for residents. He shows them how easy technology is to use and helps them get started. Seniors relate to his teaching style as he tells them all they need to get started is a finger. He travels all over Puget Sound delivering his inspiring message to residents and they love him. Sleeper has been featured on the local news and he is also the oldest member of the Seattle Social Media Club. Here is the story from Evening Magazine  and here is the story from KCPQ. Sleeper’s teaching videos are featured on the Merrill Gardens website and Facebook page where he explains how to send text messages, his favorite way of staying in touch with his kids and grandkids. He also shows seniors how to use computers and smart phones. At the end of each video Sleeper tells seniors to ‘get with it kiddo’ as he encourages them to give technology a try.Sleeper’s understanding of technology is particularly impressive when you consider he was already 60 years old by the time Microsoft was founded. Sleeper’s videos are featured on the Merrill Gardens website and facebook page.

2011 Award Winners

Tom Kobayashi

Tom Kobayashi Tom Kobayashi is in his 75th year of extraordinary volunteer service. Strongly emulating him in just one of his exceptional areas would make me an incredible person. It would take me many lifetimes to achieve the dignity and excellence of human character that he has become.

Eileen Allen

Eileen Allen Eileen has that special ability to really connect with people. Every time I hear Eileen speak I am inspired, touched and always leave feeling invigorated, and, well, happy. I want to be just like Eileen when I grow up!

2010 Winner

Kristian Nielsen-Herrera

Kristian Nielson HerraKristian is a shining example of dedication to physical fitness, intellectual stimulation, care of spiritual needs and a giving attitude.  He has had numerous major accidents in traffic and at work, airplane crashes, operations, and a temporary paralysis.  Kristian suffers from tinnitus and chronic pain from major knee surgeries and a hip replacement.  Yet he is a lover of life, active living, and thoughtful connection with others. Riding his bike from Queen Anne to West Seattle three times a week and walking, Kristian chats with others, many also suffering from life’s tribulations. He speaks with them in an uplifting, concerned manner. He listens to their stories. Kristian gives them encouragement to keep moving, keep looking up, always with a bit of humor and liveliness. In simple words, he cares.

2009 Winner

Nina Harding

Nina Harding
“My passion is to serve our elders, whom I believe are some of Seattle’s most precious gifts of wisdom. My elders taught me to seek to serve.”

Nina Harding was announced as 2009’s Inspire Positive Aging Award winner at the Senior Services Annual Meeting May 28, receiving two roundtrip tickets to any Alaska Airline destination, and her nominators have $50 to spend at Barnes and Noble as thanks for bringing Nina to our attention.

“You know, I never planned on getting old-ER, but as I get older, it certainly is an honor to walk in my grandma’s footsteps. It’s always the awards from those who live in your backyard that are the most rewarding and the most humbling. So I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

A spirit like that enabled Nina to graduate from law school at age 52 and continue to practice and give of her time to the Elder Law Clinic throughout physical challenges that would stop a less-determined person. Congratulations to our 2009 Inspire Positive Aging Award winner!

2008 Winner

Dolly Castillo

Dolly CastilloDolly Castillo has been called “the very heart of the International Drop-in Center.”  At 84 years old Dolly never seems to stop moving. She was a Physical Education teacher for 40 years, and says that being a gym teacher was the best training for getting older. Dolly continues to encourage physical activity and health, but now in an older population. With the firm but gentle attitude that gets things done and gets people moving, Dolly sees her primary goal as helping other seniors improve their outlook on life. “Activity makes you young…I tell everyone the need to ENJOY themselves and keep busy.” When asked what she thought was the best thing about aging, Dolly replied, “You can make all the mistakes you want and nobody cares.”

2007 Winner

Mary Perkins

Mary Perkins
“It’s never too late to start living and learning. Everything I do is an adventure!”

Mary Perkins says, “Life begins at 90.”  That’s when she moved to a Seattle retirement community and impressively re-invented herself — from small town to big city life, from wife to widow, from disabling illness to improved health, from home isolation to contact with diverse people, from sedentary life to challenging activities. The elegant 93-year-old exudes her enthusiasm for life and learning.  Her daughter, who nominated her, says, “Mother is great at encouraging people to believe in themselves.  She accepts assistance with grace, often writing notes of appreciation, and she compassionately and respectfully assists others. “ When Mary accepted her award, she offered this advice for positive aging:

“Be with people, help each other, try new things, laugh at  yourself, be grateful, always have something to look forward to, make the most of every day, wear red, and dance!”

2006 Winner

Idore Anschell

Idore AnschelIdore has dealt with adversity with tenacity, a sense of humor, and an openness to people that has made her friends in every generation and of many cultures.  Two life-long friends crossed the state to celebrate her 70th birthday with her. Idore taught English in Beijing while raising her daughter alone.  In her 70’s Idore pursued an M.F.A. in writing and is a published poet and writer of children’s stories Her nominator said of her, “[She] doesn’t give up, commits to doing her best work, and does it all with the best of humors. The best reason for being friends with Idore is that she’s so much fun!”