This article originally appeared in The Time of Your Life special section, Spring 2016.
The 25th annual Older Americans Conference is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 18 at the Elks Lodge (4131 Pine Road NE, Bremerton). Is is free and open to the public.
The older Tony Ventrella gets, the more he’s learning.
And that’s just the way it should be, he said.
“In America, we don’t seem to revere seniors like they do in other countries,” he said. “Other places, seniors are held in high esteem. They are honored for their knowledge. But here, we tend not to do that.”
Many times, seniors are looked at as a burden, he said, and some seniors themselves think their lives are over. But as Ventrella likes to say, “Every day is an opportunity to learn something.”
As the keynote speaker at the Kitsap County Older Americans Conference this year, Ventrella plans to tell seniors about his own experiences and about what keeps him going.
“I’m a storyteller,” he said. “I’ll share a lot of stories about the people I’ve met.”
One of those individuals is a friend who, at 84, ran the New York City Marathon with him.
“I was half his age,” he said. “I was 44 and he kept up really well. He was very inspiring.”
Being a senior is no reason to think that you’re too old to learn new things, he said. Or try new things.
“Seniors have the experience and the knowledge which they need to share with others who are younger than they are,” he added.
An interesting statistic, he said, is that 10,000 people — Baby Boomers all — turn 65 every day in the U.S.
“With that, we’re going to have to change how we look at seniors,” he said. “We will have the greatest number of people over the age of 65 that this country’s ever seen.”
Ventrella has written two books and is working on a third. His books are about keeping a positive attitude and enjoying life.
“Your attitude makes a big difference in your life,” he said.
His third book is titled “Same Air,” and addresses the fact that we all breathe the same air.
“It’s based on something (President John F. Kennedy) said in a speech,” Ventrella said. “We all breathe the same air. We are all in this together. What we each do affects the other and we need to figure out a way to get along before we eliminate our civilization.”
He’s planning on running for office as a way to do his part to make there world a better place. He plans to announce his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives soon.
“People are surprised that I’m a Democrat,” he said. “The biggest factor in that is that I don’t like all the big money in politics. People think that having been in the media, I have money and I am a Republican. But that’s not the case. They’re also surprised that I don’t have a college degree.”
Ventrella was sports director at KING 5 and KIRO 7 television for 22 years. During his career, he covered two Olympics, several World Series, Super Bowls, International Figure Skating events, Final Four basketball tournaments and three Rose Bowls.
He started his career as a barber, trained by his father who also was a barber, and had his own shop. But radio was his true love and he did that on the side. At one time, Ventrella ran his shop, did play-by-play of high school football and wrote the entire sports section of his hometown newspaper while acting in community theater and playing softball in two leagues.
He went from radio to television sports and worked in Connecticut, Indiana and then in Seattle.
He got into public speaking after he received honors and awards from community groups.
“I figured if they were going to give me the mic, I better have something good to say,” he said.
For the past 10 years, Ventrella has been digital media host for the Seattle Seahawks. He produces and hosts videos — team, corporate partner, and community outreach — on team websites.
He also has a background in theater directing and acting in dozens of productions back east and in the Pacific Northwest. He is a board member of the Evergreen Family Theatre in Redmond; he played “Scrooge” in a production of “A Christmas Carol” and Morrie in “Tuesdays with Morrie.”
People still recognize him when he’s out.
“They know my face,” he said. “They say ‘How do I know you? You were on TV but I forget your name.’ I tell them ‘That’s OK. I can’t remember my name most the time either.’ ”
His bucket list? He doesn’t have one.
“That idea is overplayed,” he said. “Most of us are doing the things we love every day, and if we’re not, that’s a problem. I’ve had the chance to travel. I’ve interviewed political figures, all-time great athletes. I have a great family — three kids and nine grandchildren. I’m very grateful.”
But he doesn’t fault others who want to make a bucket list.
“Today, and every day, my bucket list is to glorify and be grateful for being healthy,” he said.
For the past 25 years, seniors throughout Kitsap County have gathered annually to learn about resources that are available to them as they grow older.
The 2016 Older Americans Conference is no different. Participants will have the opportunity to get to know each other and to see just how many programs and activities there are in the county that cater to them.
The conference theme is “Your Silver Lining … Blaze a Trail.” Events begin at 8 a.m. May 18 at the Elks Lodge in Bremerton.
• 8 a.m.: Doors open. Registration, hot breakfast buffet, booths.
• 9 a.m.: Presentation of Colors by the Bremerton JROTC; Pledge of Allegiance.
• 9:10 a.m.: Welcome by Sigrid Howard, president, Long Term Care Alliance.
• 9:20 a.m.: Presentation of the Older Americans Day Proclamation by Kitsap County Commissioner Ed Wolfe.
• 9:30 a.m.: Remarks by Alfred Pinkham Jr., chairman of the ALTC Advisory Council.
• 9:40 a.m.: Remarks by a representative of contributing sponsor CHI/Harrison.
• 9:50 a.m.: Presentation by Robert Law, division chief medical officer CKF&R 911, “Behind the Scenes.”
Law has been with Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue since 1985. He started as a volunteer firefighter in January 1981. For three years, he volunteered as a firefighter and worked for a private ambulance service in Bremerton. After moving into a resident firefighter program, he attended and graduated from Tacoma Community College with a certificate in paramedicine.
In August 1985, Law was hired as a paramedic firefighter in Silverdale. Since that time, he was promoted through the ranks: lieutenant, captain, battalion chief, and division chief of fire training.
He has an associate’s degree from Olympic College and is working on a bachelor’s degree in public administration.
Law is in charge of CKF&R’s medical division. The medical division includes 20 certified paramedics, roughly 80 EMTs and a fleet of 11 transport aid cars or Medic units.
He is married to Christine Law, an assistant supervisor for Kitsap County CENCOM. They have three children and two granddaughters.
• 10:30 a.m.: Break. Visit sponsor and vendor booths, mid-morning snack.
• 11:30 a.m.: Keynote: Tony Ventrella, “Key to Happiness.”
• 12:30 p.m.: Closing remarks: Sigrid Howard.
• 12:30 p.m.: Tony Ventrella will be available for autographs and photos. Visit sponsor and vendor booths. Jazz band entertainment.
• 1:30 p.m.: Adjourn.
The conference is sponsored by the Kitsap County Division of Aging and Long Term Care, Givens Community Center, 1026 Sidney Ave., Port Orchard. 360-337-7068 or 360-337-5700, www.agingkitsap.com.