Becky Yanni was one of several hundred volunteers who found it satisfying to donate her time and talent to the Council on Aging long before making a professional commitment to it. Before her association with the COA, Becky was a hotel co-owner and manager of a 120-room hotel for 25 years. The Days Inn franchise also had a restaurant, a gas station, and a gift shop.
During sales negotiations of the hotel property, she was drawn to becoming a realtor. And among her real estate clients was Kay Green, COA’s then volunteer manager. Kay invited Becky on board in 2005. The full-time development manager retired in 2011, and Becky moved into the position for two years.
Cathy Brown, then COA’s executive director, retired in 2013, and COA board members approached Becky and asked if they could submit her name as a candidate for the directorship. Becky hesitated. Among her concerns were responsibilities for 200 employees and 700 volunteers. Yet board members were confident. Then her thinking shifted. “Why shouldn’t I do it?” She remembers asking herself. “Why should it not be me?” Her name was submitted, and Becky has been the agency’s executive director since.
Becky is no stranger to working through challenges. She was born in Jacksonville, Florida, the youngest of four children. Becky’s father died when she was eight months old, and her mother went to work. The nearby extended family pitched in – an aunt came to provide childcare, the family visited her maternal grandmother on Sundays, and summer vacations were with paternal grandparents in Ft. Myers and Brooksville, Florida. Becky graduated from high school in Daytona and then from Daytona Beach Community College.
“Aging is living!” says Becky, now 61 and a new grandmother. “We have to change the conversation about what aging means. It’s not a disease to be cured.” Becky says that AARP has excelled at addressing a senior’s second act. Increased longevity has given people time to pursue post-retirement interests, including another career.
Newly-retired and newly-transplanted seniors may uncover a passion or awaken dormant ones. The agency offers lifelong learning classes, programs, hot meals, games and puzzles, and a meeting place for friends. Many of the services and programs are for seniors and/or their caregivers, but there are opportunities for people of all ages.
In spite of some shift in how seniors are viewed, a stigma remains about going to a seniors’ center. “Some people become old staying home and watching television and having limited social contact,” she says. “It’s important to stay engaged with other people, especially for cognitive enrichment.”