We were very happy to be invited to the New Milford Senior Center to interview one of their dedicated members, Tony Chiodo. It was a pleasure to talk with Tony and get a chance to hear how he enjoys his active lifestyle well into his 90’s. Age is just a number!
We’d love to hear your story. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I was born on December 3rd, 1922 and raised in New Britain, Connecticut. I went to Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. I was drafted into the service where I became a medic and lab technician in Washington, DC. I got discharged after WWII. I had an easy job in the service. I was one of the lucky ones! I then came home and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I decided to get my Master’s Degree in Education. My first teaching experience was in Bloomfield, CT. I taught science, math, and biology to high schoolers. Then, 12 years later, I became a guidance counselor, which I loved. I then moved to Ridgefield where I stayed for 28 years before retiring after 38 years in the education system.
Do you have a favorite memory or story from working in education?
My favorite part was working with the kids. I loved them. It’s also how I met my wife. She was a senior and she needed a science class to graduate, so she came into my class and I said “I can’t take you in my class, I have 40 students in here now and only have 35 seats. What am I going to do with you?” She said “you’re an old grouch” and I said, “thank you”. The age difference was 12.5 years. We didn’t get together until 4 years later. I went to a party with a friend at a country club and the bank she worked at was having a little Christmas party there. So, I saw her, she came over to talk, and before I knew it we started dancing. We were married 45 years, 9 months and 18 days when she passed away. Together we had 5 children, 12 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren. The youngest great-grandchild was born 6 months ago.
How did you get involved with the New Milford Senior Center?
We came to New Milford in 1989, and I had heard about AARP, so I decided to join and one thing led to another. I am on the board of directors now for AARP. I write a newsletter every month. I wasn’t doing much at home besides fixing the house and going out to eat. I thought to myself, “I want to do something more than this.” So, I got involved with AARP and then found out about the New Milford Senior Center. I live 2 miles away and I come every day to enjoy activities and events here.
What are some of your favorite activities?
I love dancing. I try to get into as many activities as I can, including dancing. I love music from the 40’s and the 50’s. I dance alone sometimes. At home, I pick up my broom or my cane and dance! I used to be a saxophone player at a club in New Britain on Friday and Saturday nights. I was paid 50 cents for the two nights. Then I saw everyone dancing and I thought, “I’m here playing the saxophone and I’m not having that much fun.” So, after about a year I quit and started dancing. I also love the Day Trippers. I am a member of the New Milford Senior Center, the Brookfield Senior Center and the Bethel Senior Center. I go on trips with all of them. My favorite trip was going to Ireland. I want to go back there again. It was a great experience. I went to Hawaii, Great Britain, Bermuda and more. Next week I am going to the United Nations. I go everywhere.
“Anybody who says they are bored just doesn’t get involved in everything the senior center has to offer. There are so many activities and trips going on all the time. It is a lot of fun.”
What is your favorite part about living in Western Connecticut?
I have a lot of friends here and there are a lot of activities around the various towns. The New Milford Senior Center, of course, is the ideal place for seniors because when I can’t drive anymore, I can get a bus ride to the senior center. And from the center, I can go anywhere I want. I can go to the library, the theater, go shopping, eat at a bunch of restaurants, I can walk around the green and do anything.
What are your favorite memories from your childhood?
My brother and I helped my dad fix up his rowboat he paid $10 for. He paid us each 50 cents a week. We didn’t have enough money to buy a football so we threw a milk can around. We played outside in the streets and the sidewalk. The only thing we had was playing outside. But, I do remember my first TV. It was a Dumont TV. It was about 9 inches and it played 2 stations. We didn’t have babysitters like they do now. My dad would take me and my siblings to the theater at 10 AM and pick us up after work at 11 PM. We got to watch three sets of programs. I was in the Glee Club during school. The reason I was in it was because it was made up of mostly girls! But I also was a part of the band. The band was made up of only boys. I remember getting my driver’s license on my 16th birthday. Those days you didn’t have an automatic shift, so, if you stalled, you didn’t pass. But I passed on my first time. I got my own Model T Ford for a first car. I hung dice from the rearview mirror. Every once in a while I drive by my childhood home and reminisce. The only thing that has changed is the paint. I really enjoyed my childhood. It was a different time back then but it was a great time.
What is your advice to other seniors to “age well”?
Keep on walking. Don’t sit down and vegetate. Get out there and take in the air and everything around you. I’m taking a course here at the senior center called “Strength and Balance”. I take it every Tuesday and Thursday. I’m never sitting down too long. I learned my lesson. If I sit down too long I fall asleep. My goal is to live to be 100. That’s my goal! My grandmother lived to be 103 so I think I have a chance. There were 4 kids in our family. I had two sisters and a brother. I was the oldest and I outlived them all. There must be a reason I have to stay here longer, something I have to do that I haven’t done yet, that’s the answer. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s my wife saying “Hey God, don’t let him come up here, he’ll mess everything up if he comes up now!” I really enjoy my life. I have a lot of fun!
Has Tony’s story inspired you? It certainly has inspired all of us at Age Well CT. Follow Tony’s advice and get involved with your local senior center. Check out our senior center pages for more information.
Also, stay active and learn something new by attending some of the many interesting events at local centers on our Events Calendar.