May is Older American’s Month
Aging Successfully by Refusing to Accept Life as a Long Road to Decrepitude
We all want to age successfully. We are living longer now than at any other time in history. The stages of our life have often been categorized as childhood, youth, adulthood, middle age and old. There is a preconceived notion of what we are supposed to look like-cute toddler, defiant teen, frazzled working parent, lonely empty-nester and retired in a chair beside the window. We are supposed to be striving for growth and success until we retire and then we are expected to stop. For many of us these expectations mean nothing -we refuse to accept that life is a long road to decrepitude.
There are names for our generations-the Silent Generation, the Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and the Millennials. We have been squeezed and pushed to fit into a tidy little generation box wrapped with a big “Supposed To Be” bow. There is no room for Julia Roberts to be People magazines Most Beautiful Woman at age 49. No room for Janet Jackson to be a new mom at age 50. No room for Betty White to be hilarious at 97. No room for The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, to be touring at age 69.
Gina Pell, Content Chief of the website “the What” has coined a new term that is more representative and inclusive-The Perennials. Gina defines Perennials as:
“…ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages. We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded, risk takers who continue to push up against our growing edge and know how to hustle.”
Perennial people are much like the perennial flowers-they grow and blossom expanding their beauty with each passing year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention one-third of men and half of women stop being active by age 75. Staying active helps us stay healthy. Our body is like a machine-it needs to keep moving to prevent “rust” from building up. At age 87, “Iron Nun” Sister Buder is one of the oldest triathletes in America. She didn’t start competing until age 65. Phillip Dutton, age 52, was the oldest American Olympian competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Age is nothing but a number. Steve Harvey’s show “Little Big Shots: Forever Young” showcases unexpected talents of older adults. A 71 year old pole dancer, a 91 year old gymnast.
We are not all athletes but we can all go for a walk until we are able to run. We grow with every stretch like the roots of a perennial flower.
Where the mind goes the body follows. Keeping our brain engaged is an important part of aging successfully. When we are young, we must attend school. As we get older, we get to choose whether college and graduate school are a part of our life story. Many communities have adult learning programs such as the Lifelong Learning Collaborative in Providence, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Rhode Island and Hamilton House on the East Side of Providence just to name a few. If getting out of the house or coordinating a class schedule with real life is challenging-MIT offers free online Open Course Ware on a plethora of topics.
Perennial people are lifelong learners. Choosing to learn new things throughout our life for either personal or professional reasons is exciting! Cooking with turmeric? Terrific! Quantum Physics? It’s a gas!
Perennial people may be found shifting from DOing to BEing. The paperchase of work may have ended allowing for a greater engagement in activities for the greater good of mankind. As Betty Friedan, author of the Feminine Mystique once said, “Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”