“Never regret your old age, it’s a privilege denied to many. Neither my father nor my brother lived to see it,” says Frank Brooks, a former schoolteacher and new graduate of the Aging Mastery Program (AMP), a 10-week workshop created by the National Council on Aging and sponsored and presented by On Lok.

For Frank, personal development and lifelong learning are key to embracing life’s changes. “After I retired, I started volunteering, and taking courses. I love being in a classroom, absorbing new knowledge. And now that the workshop is over, I use my AMP workbook to refresh if needed. The brain needs to be challenged, especially as we get older, to keep those billions of neurons fired up and working.”

With his long academic history, Frank is not interested in pursuing another degree but in learning he can use day to day. AMP helped him gain skills in areas that impact his quality of life, from interpersonal relationships to better sleep. So he can live the next phase of his life to the fullest.

“Our life expectancy continues to increase, but experts say we are not prepared for this new longevity. AMP provides a basic toolbox for helping older adults navigate the additional 10-20 years that are predicted for all of us,” says Valorie Villela, director of On Lok WELL Senior Programs.

AMP’s top-notch faculty is critical to the learning experience. “Each discussion is led by leaders in their field, who provide invaluable viewpoints and up-to-date information on topics people in their 60s and 70s need to know more about to make the most of their longevity. Another benefit of AMP is how seniors help one another, enriching sessions with their own life experiences and expertise,” says Valorie.

“AMP was a gift,” says Joe Ochab, one of the first graduates of the workshop. “I feel much better equipped to embrace the opportunities and challenges of a longer life. The faculty was tremendous and very dedicated and responsive to our follow-up. There is a lot we can do through diet, exercise, and medical and financial management to make life better as we age. I am starting to implement what I learned, such as getting my medical power of attorney and a living trust.”

AMP continues to evolve and embrace more older adults in the community. “We are bringing AMP to people through collaborations with Mission Neighborhood Centers, Capp Senior Center, and Peninsula Jewish Community Center, among other partners. We have also launched a version in Spanish, and our Spanish-speaking seniors were so grateful for that opportunity. It fulfills our commitment to diversity and increasing access to programs and services,” says Valorie.

Because the social component is integral to the program, every workshop creates its own community. Twelve cohorts of 179 graduates have celebrated their new connections with virtual and in-person gatherings so far. For both Frank and Joe, the camaraderie developed among peers, through discussions and sharing, made the experience all the more stimulating and motivating. “We are committed to maintaining these social connections beyond the classes,” says Joe. “The goal is not just living longer but living more rewarding longer lives.”

For more information about the next AMP workshop, please contact Valorie Villela at 415-439-9364 or email valorie@onlok.org.

In the photo, graduates of the AMP program with AMP faculty and staff in the garden at On Lok 30th Street Senior Center.