The Cottonwood was packed Tuesday for the first day of the 45th annual Governor’s Conference on Aging. It marked the first time Glasgow has hosted this conference and the first visit by Gov. Steve Bullock since his election.
The theme “Aging in the Last Best Place” reflects the fact that Montana has one of the fastest growing 65 and older populations in the nation, with an average of 35 baby boomers turning 65 every day until 2030.
And surprisingly, within this age group, the fastest growing segment is the 100 and older age group, the centenarians. Montana has more than 175 people over 100. Eight of these hardy Montanans were honored personally by the governor with certificates and the reading of a bit of their life stories.
Bullock said 1913 was a pretty good vintage, producing the celebrity centenarians at this luncheon, as well as Rosa Parks, Presidents Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon, and coaches Bear Bryant and Vince Lombardi.
The rural nature we treasure about Montana makes it a challenge to deliver services to those who need help as they grow old here, he said. The area Offices on Aging deliver these services to allow Montana seniors to live in their homes as long as possible.
There were many quick bursts of laughter as “secrets of longevity” were revealed. Walter Romo of Saco, who at 102 was the senior senior present, said it was “hard work and eggs for breakfast every day.” Stella Hallett pulled some oneupsmanship when she claimed “hard work and eating eggs and bacon every morning and mashed potatoes every night for dinner.”
The hardships endured by people who lived through the homestead days, two world wars and the Great Depression left their mark. As quoted in the conference book, their philosophy of life ran along the lines of Have a positive attitude, Do the best you can with what you’ve got, Trust in the Lord, and Work hard, eat well and stay active.
Clovie Kuehne, 101, of Wolf Point, spoke only Norwegian until she entered school at age 8. She vividly remembers getting electricity in 1949. Viola Beyer of Malta said her father was a bootlegger from Ohio who escaped to Montana and homesteaded between Landusky and Zortman. Dorothy Spannagel, who came from Jordan for this event, was born west of Forsyth in a tent, because her homesteader parents hadn’t built a house yet.
Bernice Herman’s family homesteaded north of Frazer. She recently learned hardanger embroidery and made altar cloths for Our Redeemer Church in Nashua. Elizabeth Friesen was born in north Siberia and came to homestead in Larslan in 1916.
Samar Fay / The Courier
Gov. Steve Bullock has a certificate for Clovie Kuehne of Wolf Point, age 101, one of the honored guests at Tuesday’s session of the Governor’s Conference on Aging, held in Glasgow for the first time. At right is Stella Hallett, a Glasgow resident, another centenarian who received a certificate from the governor.
Irene Stageberg of Westby had something positive to say about her age: “One good thing about being 100 years old is, I don’t have to worry about peer pressure.”
Lori Brengle, the director of the Area I Agency on Aging, said many local people and agencies joined the Glasgow committee to host this conference. The committee raised $4,200, which paid for the speakers’ travel expenses and the Prairie Strings quartet, which performed at a reception Tuesday evening at Prairie Ridge Village. There was still $3,000 to use for scholarships so seniors could attend. There were 210 people registered over the two days, Brengle said.
Tuesday’s talks on estate planning, mental health and aging, healthy aging, and fraud and abuse were well received by the audience. The second day of the conference was to feature local speakers on family history, depression, multi drug use and side effects, scams against seniors, home safety and storytelling.
The Governor’s Conference on Aging will continue Thursday and Friday in Great Falls, where the centenarians’ luncheon will feature Lt. Gov. John Walsh.