Eat half, walk double, laugh triple, love without measure.  

­— Tibetan proverb 

Every month, facilitators of the IONS Conscious Aging workshops get together for a teleconference, and one question for our recent gathering was, “As you reflect on your life journey, choose an event or an experience or a conversation that gave you a sense of meaning and purpose.”

One such event for me was the conference last month at Concordia University, titled Resilient Aging – Resilient Living: Cultivating Community Good for All Ages. The room was filled with older people — beautiful, passionate, engaged, questioning and energized people.

A joint project of Arbor West Neighbors and Concordia’s Center for Gerontology, this conference featured keynote speaker Roger Landry, an energetic speaker who shared insights and concrete suggestions for living well, for living resiliently. He delivered a lively presentation about what BJ Miller has termed “allowing life to play itself all the way out, so that rather than getting out of the way, aging and dying can become a process of crescendo through to the end.”

Landry focused on the eating, walking and laughing part of the above mentioned Tibetan Proverb, and did so inspiringly. He focused more on the physical, not so much on consciousness, which was just fine. The well over 100 other people in the room supplied the connection — the folks in the room who remain engaged after the keynote speaker, as good as he was, leaves town. And therein is why this conference gave me a sense of purpose and meaning.

I listened to the brief reports from the nine breakout tables, each outlining the dreams and practical realities of those gathered. I witnessed the ambitious energy in identifying areas of future work. Being in the room, I was part of a developing grassroots effort, and the sense of meaning and purpose was contagious — not so much serious as determined. There will be more about the continually developing aging network in future columns.

Don’t forget: Celebrating Seniors runs May 18-25. There will be lots of information percolating all around the towns. Keep your eyes and ears open.  

Also: Outaging’s Summit on Our Possibilities will take place May 23-25. The summit will open with a reception at Affinity Community Services, located in Bronzeville on Chicago’s South Side. The remainder of the summit will take place at a loop location hosted by AARP. 

Save the date: Thursday, June 15 at 7 p.m., Concordia University. The speaker will be Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism and recent TED Talk presenter. Ashton resonates with all generations. Please do mark it on your calendar and attend, and bring along a friend from a different generation than yours.

One more thing: Using baby talk with older people is insulting, not cute, and a new study finds it’s also bad for our health. According to research published in Oxford University’s The Gerontologist, a slow speech rate, exaggerated intonation, elevated pitch and volume, the intentional use of simple vocabulary and reduced grammatical complexity, changes in affect, pronoun substitutions (“how are we today?” instead of “how are you?”), diminutives, and repetition can make older people with cognitive impairment react negatively and refuse to comply, usually causing agitation and yelling.  

Kristine Williams, professor at the University of Kansas School of Nursing, told the Huffington Post that baby talk may be well-intended and meant to show kindness and affection, but what it actually does is “send a message to older adults that they’re not competent.” 

Perhaps Ashton Applewhite will address this point on June 15.

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