After 28 years of creating, publishing and marketing senior-focused publications, Kathy Beck, founder of Senior Connection (now Lifestyles After 50), is looking forward to a new part of her life…retirement. A forever creative and passionate leader, Kathy will change her step to volunteering and continue to work in the senior community.
After moving from California, Kathy, her husband Bill, and their two daughters, Jennifer and Michelle came to the Tampa Bay area – with mother-in-law Martha in tow. Upon arriving, Kathy found it difficult to find help and information for Martha when they sought her Social Security and medical coverage.
Always one to seize an opportunity, Kathy decided to investigate the Senior Market in Hillsborough county, only to discover there was no Department of Elder Affairs at that time, explaining why all Florida seniors found it hard to find services and medical care. That’s when Kathy took matters into her own hands. She started the paper now known as Lifestyles After 50 in September of 1989, and the first edition ran in Hillsborough County with only 12 pages and two colors – black and red.
An inspired goal, it was not without its challenges. “It was hard to find advertisers and information for a paper no one had heard of. In fact, people told me there were not a lot of seniors in Hillsborough County – but as luck would have it, News Channel 8 picked up the story and that was it… the phone started ringing off the hook from seniors calling to get a copy or send money to help support the paper”.
Kathy and her husband soon went out delivering papers in senior communities talking to people and trying to get support for the Free Paper for Seniors to find information, inspiration, friends and services.
Hillsborough County provided a program called SCNAP that gave seniors a place to come and meet and share lunch provided by the county. This was the beginning of change for the paper as they all worked together with the county to get the word out that more was needed for this growing senior population.
Kathy quickly became a sales person and advocate for the paper to expand into three more counties. In 1995, she won the prestigious Florida Council on Aging Award. In 1999, the Senior Connection started a TV show on broadcast channel 32, and Bill and Kathy answered the phone every Saturday morning for five years. That really did it for Senior Connection’s recognition and value to the senior community – still, Kathy says the best part was meeting all the wonderful people and getting to know the readers.
Things were really brought to a new level when the New York Times included information about Lifestyles’ Seniors Getting Together column in their front page article on Senior Dating, and the paper soon expanded to five counties. This was followed by the publication receiving the FL Department of Elder Affairs Award for Outstanding Coverage of Senior Issues in 2000, and many awards and changes for the paper continued as the Senior Connection family grew.
In-person events followed as a way to give seniors more options and inspiration for their lives, and as the paper’s ambitions grew, so did the team of wonderful volunteers who supported the cause, giving more than 100% to help the paper grow.
As a small team of employees grew, Senior Connection joined forces with News Connection USA Inc. Their board consisted of investors who believed in the paper’s potential to grow and make a difference in seniors’ lives.
By 2012, over 85 events were held in all six counties on the west coast of Florida and the publication expanded to an electronic forum – a brand new site, LifestylesAfter50.com, offering e-versions of the paper. Lifestyles went on to serve the community in additional ways, by sponsoring the Florida Senior Games, the Painting Festival, photo contests and 40+ Senior Fun Fests, offering fun walks, music, contests and health information for Florida Seniors.
KATHY’S FONDEST MEMORY:
THE BIRTH OF THE FUN WALK
Back in 1990, good friend Don Clark from the Brandon Running Association helped to set up the first walk at the FL State Fair Grounds. Over 100 people came out for the first one mile Walk of the Ages and a 5k. I will never forget the faces of the seniors getting ready with excitement for the walk.
Some of the walkers had canes and wheelchairs others were in tip top shape. Grandkids joined in to cheer them on. It was a great feeling to see some of the seniors who had not done any exercise for years have a great time. Over 80 more fun walks went on from there, and I think I still have a T-shirt for each and every walk!
Kathy has been an integral part of the senior population for almost 30 years. Her dedication has helped provide information, support and entertainment to seniors throughout Tampa Bay and she has left a profound mark on her community. As the New Year arrived, so did news that Kathy would be leaving the creative project she had dedicated decades of her life to.
“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” Kathy said. “I love this newspaper and my colleagues here, and I devoted much of myself to helping the senior community through my work at Lifestyles. Still, I’m looking forward to pursuing other interests and it’s time to hand the reins to a new leader. I would like to thank everyone for making these 28 years a wonderful experience.
Kathy Beck will formally retire in February, and the entire Lifestyles After 50 staff is grateful for her contributions and offers best wishes for her future endeavors.