Resilient aging and aging in place

Opinion: Columns

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By Marc Blesoff

CONSCIOUS AGING

What is couldn't be any izzer. 

Unknown (but repeated by my mother in law) 

Dr. Bill Thomas (of ChangingAging notoriety) speaks of an emerging new stage of life that follows adulthood. This new stage, which can be called "elderhood," has its own standards and values distinct from adulthood. One of the factors leading to the elderhood stage is today's longevity, never before seen in the human species.

"It's great you can still do that!" or "Boy, you still look good!" Although well-meaning, this comment is just a more subtle form of ageism than those "funny" supermarket 50+ or 60 birthday cards that really aren't even close to funny — ageist because they use the inappropriate standards of adulthood when referring to elderhood. So, too, does the term "older adult," as if people will always be judged by the standards appropriate for adults, which disrespects the precious beauties of aging in its own right. Let's just be seen as older people. Aging is not a succeed-or-fail proposition; it is inevitable. It just is.

None of us is immune from internalized ageism. It is pervasive. In our culture, it just is.

As the collective "we" responds to the needs of our new elderhood stage, it is important to become aware of how the old paradigm infects our new efforts. Creating wonderful new structures and approaches from an internalized ageist point of view perpetuates that ageism.

One such local response takes place on Tuesday, April 18, when the Center for Gerontology at Concordia University in River Forest hosts a program titled, "Resilient Aging – Resilient Living: Cultivating Community Good for All Ages." This will be an exciting day of education, discussion and planning, starting at 9:30 a.m. and going until 3:30 p.m. The keynote speaker is Dr. Roger Landry, a respected medical expert in the field of aging who will outline his perspective on cultivating opportunities to age resiliently. The day provides an opportunity to connect and share views about aging consciously for everyone. I encourage your attendance; it will be a day well spent. (Full disclosure: I will be one of the afternoon panelists.)

This timely and energizing program is a joint project of Arbor West Neighbors and the Concordia Center for Gerontology, and represents a new phase in our local efforts to catch up with the realities of aging today. 

Growing out of the Virtual Village Network movement and using the "aging in place" model, Arbor West Neighbors has been forging an entity that fits our community profile and needs ever since Tess Donnelly and others asked, "Why not here in Oak Park/River Forest/Forest Park?" This upcoming program at Concordia will help some best next steps emerge.

Kudos to the Center for Gerontology and to the Kott Memorial Charitable Trust for supporting Arbor West Neighbors in its infancy. This is a symbiotic example of our local academic institution and funders assisting the development of inventive grassroots organizing. It bodes well for our local efforts to strengthen a community that is indeed good for all ages.

Marc Blesoff is a former Oak Park village trustee, co-founder of the Windmills softball organization, co-creator of Sunday Night Dinner, a retired criminal defense attorney, and a novice beekeeper. He currently facilitates Conscious Aging Workshops and Wise Aging Workshops in the Chicago area.

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