London City Council discusses a smoke-free Saint Joseph 

Photo by Dillan Combs 

IGOT Communities representatives stand behind Mayor Troy Rudder as he signs a proclamation for their organization. 

Independently Growing Old Together (IGOT) is a non-profit community program founded in London that sees senior citizens connect, share and grow together in a safe and fun environment to offset the negative effects that can come with aging.

The years following retirement are often referred to as the golden years, but some senior adults have a different experience. Debbie Gilbert will be the first to tell you, there’s no reason for an older person to be lonely.

“When senior adults begin to isolate, to get older, and that happens sooner than most people think, they begin to get a lot of anxiety and depression,“ she said.

Gilbert, a 63-year-old LPPC and London native, has an impressive resume. She has a private practice and is currently working on getting her doctorate. Retirement has never been on the menu, with her founding of IGOT, that has become carved into stone.

“There’s a lot that senior adults have to offer. They’ve gathered a lot of wisdom on their journeys, and there are a lot of people to share that wisdom with. I think one way to help them age successfully is to give them a place to give back all of the wisdom they’ve gained over the years,” she said.

Through their free membership in IGOT, seniors can expect to share that wisdom with in-person contact, as well as conferences with medical professionals and others through a video conference system called ZOOM. Participants can expect to cover a wide range of topics including everything from medical questions to just swapping stories. So regardless of where members are, they can get crucial face to face contact with their peers. These video conferences help form the social/educational basis of the program, but they are far from the only activity in store for those at IGOT. Bingo, visits to the movies, Bible studies and more. Travel events happen often as well, and range from day trips to multi-night events. Gilbert is particularly excited about upcoming visits to Washington, D.C. and Christmas shopping centered trip to New York.

On Valentine's Day, IGOT will be hosting an event for couples and singles 50 years and older at the London Community Center. From 6 to 9 p.m. attendees can expect an intimate and formal setting with an extensively catered meal as well as music and dancing. With a $30 price tag, seats can be reserved online or through calls to IGOT’s office.

IGOT found its origins in Gilbert’s studies for her doctorate. Gilbert was encouraged to form an advocacy group, and with the help of her son, IGOT was born. Since forming last year, the program has seen success. Gilbert sees a bright and comprehensive future ahead.

“There’s a saying that says if you can’t see it before you see it you’ll never see it. I really see IGOT communities in every state in the nation. I see chapters in every community. I see IGOT communities as a super safe place for senior adults to connect, learn, and thrive as they age, “ she said.

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