The sign that Mayor Michael Nutter posted on the front door of Germantown’s Center in the Park on Tuesday morning, not too far from where a Zumba class had just ended, showed a trio of senior citizens exercising with the tagline “3 People Like This.”
It was part of the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging’s (PCA) public-service announcement campaign dubbed “Original Social Network,” which had just been launched with the first-time public airing of two television spots to an auditorium packed with those who frequent the Vernon Park facility.
The event resonated with Nutter for two reasons.
The first: As he put the poster up, he noted that the AARP was already sending him mailers in advance of his June birthday.
The second: He had just been presented with a Center membership because, next month, he will become a senior citizen.
“Philadelphia is an older, experienced city, with 14 percent of the population 55 years old or above,” he said, before telling those assembled that would soon join their ranks. “It is our duty in government, and as good citizens, to make sure services and assistance are provided, and to engage all Philadelphians, to make [seniors] feel valuable and respected, to help them live independently, with community support.”
The campaign itself
That theme also plays into the PCA’s campaign which aims to “help Philadelphians understand and realize the importance of their senior family members, friends and neighbors being social and having someone to connect with. … Seniors who have no social interaction have the poorest health and are more likely to suffer from depression.”
Simply put, real-time social interactions help maintain physical health, the PCA noted.
The 15- and 30-second spots will air on local television stations. Meanwhile, PCA volunteers will take 750 posters, like the one Nutter hanged, and place them in neighborhoods throughout the city.
Renee Cunningham, the Center’s associate director, noted that seniors who come there represent “positive aging,” which is part of the PSA’s message.
“We hope this helps isolated people get out of their houses and visit a senior center,” added Holly Lange, the PCA’s senior vice president. When attendees’ children and grandchildren get swept up in online social networking, “they don’t interact face-to face. Philadelphia’s senior centers have a role in social connections.”
“Instead of requesting a few friends, go over to a senior center and meet a few face-to-face,” she continued. “Ask ‘how are you today?’ You’ve made a lifelong friend. You don’t go to a chatroom on the Internet. You go to lunch where there are 150 people in your chatroom.”
Old-school and new-school social networking
Nutter concurred, drawing a parallel between Facebook, Twitter and facilities like Center in the Park.
“One hundred and forty characters can’t convey the feeling, can’t convey the tone, can’t convey the message you get when you look someone in the eyes and tell them you care about them,” said Nutter, who did not Tweet once during the appearance. “The world is changing, society is changing, but that’s one of the things that we need to hold onto.”
Lois Parker, who has come to the Center for the past 10 years, couldn’t have agreed more as she waited for the Route 23 bus after the event. The Germantown resident of more than four decades said she found the fact that Nutter was turning 55 to be “interesting,” and that the campaign was “impressive.”
“I’ve met so many people here that they’re like family,” said Parker, who admitted she knows less than some of those “relatives” about online social networking. “We go way back. We’re old friends.”