This post is by Barbara Raynor, the Managing Director of Boomers Leading Change in Health in Denver. That’s where she kicked off the first-ever BOOM! conference on Saturday, October 3, with this excellent talk. I love her friend’s line, ““I didn’t choose aging—it chose me,” because it’s just the way I feel. Every person who attended BOOM! got a tremendous amount out it, including me.
I have a confession to make: before I took this job about five-and-a-half years ago, I didn’t think much about aging. I have really good genes. Not only did my grandparents and great-grandparents live happy, healthy, productive and long lives—they remained active and engaged and opinionated until virtually the very end. Though they aged, they didn’t fixate on what they couldn’t do; instead, they focused on what they could do and what they liked to do: cooking, baking, having one Budweiser every afternoon at 5:00, building fences and climbing windmills at 85, playing bridge or gin or mah jongg, volunteering at the local hospital, and spending time with family. To them, aging was a fact of life—not the end of life—and so, I never thought much about it.
Until I took this job.
As my friend Cec Ortiz who directs the Colorado Latino Age Wave Initiative says, “I didn’t choose aging—it chose me.” And over the past five-and-a-half years, I have learned a LOT.
Did you know how we think and feel about aging actually affects how well we age—and how long we live?
Did you know that serving others can actually help you feel better physically and emotionally—especially if you’re 60 or older?
Did you know that people over 60 are generally happier and more content than younger adults?
So why is it that most of these symposia on aging focus on topics like medication management. Funeral planning. The impending death of a loved one. And my personal favorite—and I’m not making this up—incontinence. Even if you’ve got the worst attitude ever, you know there’s more to aging than that.
It’s tempting to fall into the ageist trap of focusing on the downside of age—especially since that seems to be the focus of the media, our government, and so many of society’s institutions. Instead we, as individuals, must resist that temptation and push the conversation about aging in a different, more asset-based direction. One that recognizes the skills, talent, and experience adults 50 and over have to offer, as well as our need and desire to work, serve, learn, and lead.
At Boomers Leading Change in Health, we believe aging is living. That it more than beats the alternative. That it’s ripe with possibilities, opportunities, and adventures that are singularly associated with being older, wiser, and having greater experience and perspective.
We do not believe 60 is the new 40. That our best days are “yester.” Or that gray hair and “fine lines” serve as some sort of invisibility cloak.
We believe that 60 is the new 60. That we’re not done yet. That we still have it, want to give it—and that our world desperately needs what we have to offer. And, we believe that gray hair and wrinkles—let’s call them what they are—are simply visual proof of a life that’s fortunately extended well into adulthood.
Enter BOOM!—a day that celebrates the upside of aging. Tapping into your creative side. Exploring the possibilities. Thinking about—and planning for—your “What’s Next.” And leaving you more inspired, better-informed, and better-equipped to kick however much time each of us has left—whether it’s 30 days or 30 years—in the tush.
Because we still have so much to do. Places to go. People to see. Mindsets to change. Flags to raise. Problems to solve. Challenges to address. From hunger, to homelessness, to gun violence, to climate change, to illiteracy, to poverty, to healthcare, the list goes on and on. The possibilities are endless. The opportunities are endless. Our community needs us. Our society needs us. Our world needs us. WE need us.
So stand up. Get involved. Make a difference. And who knows—the world you change may be your own.