BOLD alumna dedicates herself to helping the elderly

Di Patterson, an alumna of the 2004 BOLD program, is an advocate for the elderly and for the study of gerontology at Biola.

Harmony Wheeler, Writer

When Di Patterson’s son joined the marines to fight in the first six months of the war in Iraq, she found the support she needed at Biola. An alumna of the 2004 BOLD program, Patterson said her classmates were like family to her. Every time they met, they prayed for three things: that God would meet her son in the desert, that God would give him something to do other than fighting, and that God would bring him home safely.

Her son, Paul Bennett, did return home safely, and he came back with several black and white photos to share, as well. The photos he took of the people and places he saw were published in the May/June 2004 issue of B&W Magazine, the same month Patterson and her high school daughter graduated. The pictures and accompanying article had the largest response ever for the magazine.

“All that happened because of the prayers of my Biola family,” Patterson said.

Biola remains in Patterson’s heart today. It helped her on her journey to her current job as a gerontologist (someone who studies healthy aging or treats the elderly), and she presented gerontology as a possible major to Biola for the third time, this year.

“I have a great desire to bring gerontology to Biola someday, because Biolans have a heart for people,” she said.

Having a heart for people is a large part of both Christianity and gerontology, Patterson said, and Patterson’s own love for people was a major factor in her decision to have a career in gerontology. Enthusiastic and energetic, 55 year old Patterson described herself as a “corny” and fun person who wants to change lives and share her joy with others.

“The enemy can’t get a foothold when you’re celebrating things,” she said.

Patterson likes to celebrate life. Although she did not grow up in an athletic family, Patterson said she was blessed with energy and good genes. Beginning in her younger years, she took advantage of her energy and tried to stay healthy. Four loving grandparents, three of which lived past 95, also contributed to the start of her journey toward gerontology.

“Old people rock! They’re vibrant people,” Patterson said.

After her initial years in college, Patterson’s love of healthy living and the elderly grew. She worked at a pharmacy, then in assisted living. After spending several more years working for the law office where she met her husband, Patterson began to feel a call on her life. She began fitting gerontology into her work at the law office, which dealt with dementia, wills and other various issues involving the elderly. Eventually, she went back to community college before choosing to become part of the Biola BOLD program.

Today, her work takes on the form of an organization, a book and a conference, all dealing with gerontology. “The Let’s Group” brings together gerontologists to network and to hear guest speakers. Members of the group take part in potlucks and clothing exchanges, as well as continued education sessions.

Patterson said her “Season of Life” conference will take place March 20, 2010, in Palm Desert at California State University San Bernardino. The university will partner with Patterson for the one-day event which will include afternoon breakout sessions, an exhibition, book and health fairs, speakers who are experts in brain health, assistive products, health, nutrition and wellness, fashion for people over 50, and appearances by “older” celebrities like Pat Boone.

The conference will parallel Patterson’s book, “AgeWise: Season Your Life,” scheduled for release before the event takes place. All attendees will receive free copies of the book, which Patterson said focuses on the seasonings or spices that enhance and preserve the flavor of foods, or, in this case, life.

“People have the responsibility to make plans for their lives,” Patterson said.

Those plans include whether they will live a healthy life, as well as how they will one day take care of parents and loved ones.

“You can’t deal with anyone else’s aging until you deal with your own, first,” she said.

Much of Patterson’s focus is to help people deal with their fear of aging and death and, consequently, to live full lives.

“We all have needs and preferences,” Patterson said. “We need to grow old in our preferences. I help people get in touch with their fears and hopes, and when we have confidence, we can be ourselves.”

For college age students, Patterson recommended an active lifestyle, good sleep, a healthy diet, and flossing (which Patterson said helps prevent Alzheimer’s). Patterson also called to attention the importance of allowing only good, true information to enter the brain, especially when it comes to information about health and aging.

“God is showing His people wisdom through scientific research,” Patterson said. “Love yourself enough to take good care of yourself. Follow God’s wisdom, and your soul will be very happy. De-mass to de-stress, worship God with all your heart and mind and in what you do, and call your mother and father every once in a while.”

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