True North Living: 18/1 SW_jan_mar_2018_digital - Page 5

This increase in longevity gives rise to new important questions: • What do we want to do with an extra 30 years? • How should we, as individuals and as a society, shape the direction and purpose of our longer lives? • Can we design a path to our future that improves the well- being and opportunities of people at all ages? • Should we be creating new social and business policies that will foster these opportunities? • How do we prepare young people for longer lives— and can these questions be answered in ways that would be beneficial for all generations? • How do I personally reimagine a purposeful lifestyle for myself ? We have added 30 years to our lives, not just for the lucky few but for the majority of people in the developed world. The truth is that we have created a new stage of life called Elderhood - but have not yet envisioned its purpose, meaning, and opportunities. What does this new stage of life mean? • Psychologists Erik and Joan Erikson viewed later life as a time when the impulse to give back to society becomes an urgent need. • Carl Jung, an early psychologist with interest in the challenges of the second half of life, saw older age as a fertile period of spiritual growth and individuation. • Betty Friedan, a social psychologist, researched aging late in her life and suggested that there is a “fountain of age,” a period of renewal, growth, and experimentation based on a new freedom. • Dr. Bill Thomas, a geriatrician, is at the forefront of a strong nationwide movement to reframe life after adulthood, which is Elderhood, as an exciting stage of human growth and development. In his book Second Wind, he explores the dreams and disappointments, the struggles and triumphs of a generation of 78 million 1451 Spruce Street, Florence, OR 97439 people who once said they would never grow old and never trust anyone over thirty. Having created a new stage of life, Elderhood - the next step is to make these extra 30 years meaningful! For some of us it may be: • Choosing a healthy lifestyle so that the extra 30 years of life can be vibrant. • Volunteering or working in jobs to make the world a better place; creating a legacy through service, mentoring and activism to benefit future generations. • Embracing new paradigms for aging to realize our potential. Reinventing our life, and doing something we have always dreamed about but never had the opportunity to do. • Assuming the Elder teaching role as the conduit to connect the generations to restore the broken connections in our culture. Even the frailest elder has something to teach us, if we, as students, recognize the elder wisdom as an opportunity to actualize their purpose and legacy. The truth is, we don’t yet know what Elderhood, this new stage of life, can be, but the first step is to change the lens through which we view aging and challenge our stereotypical assumptions. No matter what our age or frailty or ability, we are always fully capable human beings. Until our last breath, we are evolving, and are in a period of renewal, growth, and experimentation. • • • • • About the author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living located in Eugene, Oregon. Jean is an elder advocate, and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and culture development for Compass Senior Living. Email: | 5