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Two Central Ohio Women Honored With 2023 Disrupt Aging Award

2023 Disrupt Aging Honorees: Catherine Willis, left, and Joy Ryan, right
2023 Disrupt Aging Honorees: Catherine Willis, left, and Joy Ryan, right

Disrupters Catherine Willis and Joy Ryan are fearless and inspiring. They’ve reinvented what it means to age gracefully.

On Saturday, May 13, at the fourth annual Mother’s Day Celebration, AARP Ohio and its Central Ohio volunteers recognized Joy Ryan of Duncan Falls, Ohio and Catherine Willis of Columbus with its Disrupt Aging Award. As a movement, disrupt aging began as a way to change the conversation about age, to challenge outdated beliefs and encourage all of us to rethink what it means to grow older. It reminds everyone that what you do after 50 can be just as amazing of what you’ve done in your 20s, 30s and 40s.

“Disrupt Aging challenges us to rethink outdated beliefs about aging,” said Deborah Hall, AARP Ohio volunteer and event co-chair. “We present the awards to highlight individuals who don't let their age define their goals or influence their life choices. This year's recipients Catherine Willis and Joy Ryan are excellent examples of Disrupt Aging.”

By highlighting women in Central Ohio who do not let their age define them, event organizers promote and educate community members on the benefits of the Disrupt Aging initiative, especially for the 50-plus and their families.

Catherine Willis, Columbus
Catherine is a dedicated community activist who supported education, the arts and family advocacy. She has been involved in UNCF and a founding member of Friends of Art for Community Enrichment. A former Columbus City school teacher, her focus on education led her to become an active volunteer, supporter and board member of I Know I Can, a program that guarantees every Columbus City Schools student an opportunity to attend college.

Her list of accolades includes many honors and recognitions, including receiving the prestigious Jefferson Award for extraordinary public service—twice, in 1985 and 2015 and being inducted into the Central Ohio Senior Hall of Fame in 2015 and Columbus Hall of Fame in 2021. Catherine is a 50+years member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and an alumna member of Twin Rivers Chapter of The Links, Inc.

Joy Ryan, Duncan Falls
In 2015, Joy and her grandson, Brad Ryan, set out to visit the Great Smoky Mountains. However, their great experience at the national park made them want more. So, the adventure became to visit all 63 U.S. national parks. After eight years, Joy, now in her 90s, and Brad completed their bucket list at the National Park of American Samoa, located in the South Pacific Ocean. Grandma Joy made history as the oldest person to visit every national park.

The Disrupt Aging Award is a way to acknowledge and inspire community residents by highlighting women who have not let age keep them from continuing their life’s work or pursuing their dreams. Previous award recipients include: China White, a dance instructor and former professional dancer; Ann B. Walker, retired journalist and community activist; and Suzan Bradford, the executive director of the Lincoln Theatre.

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