A Brave New Old Age

Recently, I’ve been part of a support group of peers coping with the challenges surrounding our parents’ last years and even the unexpected loss of relatives and friends of our own generation. Experiencing so much decline and loss in such a relatively short time has really made an impact on me, especially since it coincides with growing evidence that my own aging process is (sagging, spreading, thinning, wrinkling, aching, weakening, drying, greying…) at an annoying pace.

“It may be necessary to live with a body that is changing. That we can’t avoid. But the shape of our life itself we can control. We are at the point in life where we must make the kind of decisions that will determine the quality of our remaining years.” ~ From “The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully” by Sr. Joan Chittister

Old or young? What do you see in the mirror?
Old or young? What do you see in the mirror?

I find myself dwelling more and more on how I will grow old in a society that is both ageing (10,000 per day turning 65) and ageist (as in sexist, racist – holding detrimental stereotypes toward the elderly.) I’m fiercely independent (don’t follow fads, don’t wear the latest styles) and wanna-be self-reliant, so I resist traditional models for senior living and wish I could create an intentional community of strong, cooperative, congenial friends and relatives in which to age together. But is that really possible?

The beginning of this year I invited a cross-section of neighbors and friends to participate in an Elder Salon, based on the work of Alexandra Hart and David “Lucky” Goff in The Age of Actualization: A Handbook for Growing Elder Culture. It didn’t fly. All the excuses I heard for not participating were legitimate, but taken as a whole they reaffirmed that many of my peers are either denying their own aging or trying to avoid it.

And yet, everyday each of us wakes up one day older. It’s a law that cannot fail. Even those who don’t like following rules have to follow this one.

You can't break this law.
Just try it.

I don’t want to relocate from the beautiful, stimulating Asheville Area, but with our extended family scattered far and wide, and the memory of my sudden health reversals never forgotten, I’ve convinced Michael to seriously consider all our options for future life. Running “what if?” scenarios and doing our homework (in spite of emotional inertia), we’ve learned a great deal about resources for “ageing in community,” continuing care communities (CCRCs), naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs), senior friendly neighborhoods, alternatives to traditional assisted living and nursing homes, ageism, wisdom, funding, policies, the impact of the Affordable Healthcare Act, etc. We’ve discovered there are a lot of new ideas and interesting, exciting choices emerging­ for living well as we age, driven by undeniable (worldwide) changes in population demographics.

Lots of people who didn’t want to participate in an Elder Salon have none-the-less asked to “pick my brains” about this subject. Instead of doing that one dinner at a time, I’ve begun to organize the information I’ve already assembled and make it available, as well as to post relevant personal views/lessons learned, new information, and the latest expert perspectives as I discover them.

“The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.”– C.S. Lewis

By subscribing and posting comments to my blog entries, you can be part of a virtual Elder Salon, exploring and defining what it means to age well. We are a circle of Modern Elders, a co-hort of active, intellectually alive people committed to “fully enjoying the second act of life,” swapping information, insight, and resources to achieve our individual desired results.

Together we can get there.
Together we can get there.

We are the generation that changed the styles and norms and product offerings for each lifestage we moved through. As we manifest our dreams for senior life, we once again are trend setters, this time creating the foundation for a “new old age.”  Remember:

 

The greatest success and satisfaction in life comes from sharing the best of yourself with others. ~ Sharon Lamhut Willen

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