Age is just a number, according to William T. Smith, who said he was recently impressed by a 102-year-old Westchester resident who gave a three-minute speech with no notes.
"I like to think of 65-year-olds as still in their middle ages. Age is almost irrelevant as long as you feel well and keep active," said Smith.
He should know. He has a doctorate in social work and has devoted his 40-year career to gerontology. Smith is currently president and CEO of Aging in America, Inc., the parent corporation to several non‑profit agencies providing services to seniors and their families in the Bronx, Westchester County, Rockland County and Long Island.
He will be honored with the Golden Harvest Distinguished Service Award on Oct. 4 at the 21st annual Golden Harvest Breakfast Awards in Tarrytown.
"Awards like this—from your peers—are very meaningful," said Smith. "For over 40 years, I've enjoyed the companionship and friendship of other professionals in this area, so it's a nice compliment."
Smith said he's always enjoyed an easy communication with older people.
"Despite their independence—or frailties—I've been able to reach them," he said. "I've had great mentors through the years and we stand on the shoulders of the giants whenever we are humbled by this type of award. We can only accomplish things with the help and support of those around us, especially family and other professionals."
Smith has lived in Bedford for 16 years and with his wife Ann, raised his daughter Joanna, a Fox Lane High School graduate and present vice-president at Deutsche Bank, and his son Jeffrey, a graduate of Kennedy Catholic High School and current director of communications at Warburg Pincus.
The awards breakfast also features AARP designating Westchester County as one of the first seven “AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities” nationwide for its commitment and multiyear plan to improve the quality of life for seniors.
Smith is the chairman of the board of Dominican Sisters Family Health Services, an assistant professor of public health administration at Pace University and an adjunct professor in the School of Social Services at Fordham University.
Smith said he's especially proud to have received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2006 for his dedication to community service, building bridges between ethnic, racial and religious groups, sharing personal and professional gifts with the local, national or international community and contributing distinguished service to humanity in particular for his work on behalf of older persons.