“If you survey history, you will find many people who engaged in missions they probably would have preferred to avoid altogether, but they were swept up and became obsessed with solving a problem they were uniquely equipped to tackle. They may have been reluctant to engage, but they resolved to act. Over time, this obsession with the problem translated to passion, or a willingness to suffer on behalf of their work. Passion followed action, not the reverse.”
Wow… Spooky wonderful, how spot on that is in describing how John & I came to be eldercare evolutionaries. Both of us were primary care partners for our Moms. John & I would have told you that we made sure to be there for our mothers because we were their children & that’s what kids are meant to do. It worked both ways – while we were there for them, they were always there for us. Now, looking back – 16 years for Mom, 20 (next month) for Mom M. – can see that we cared about them as more than our parents; we cared about them as people, too. That’s turned out to be a special blessing.
We expected that our mothers’ passings would find us burrowed deeper into our professional lives – artist & the corp world. After all, John was Mom M’s one & only, while my Mom had lived with me for all but the nine months between when I married & when she moved in with us. My mother wished she could see us after she was gone, our wings fully spread, flying like never before!
Not so fast.
But the Universe is sneaky. Through apparent set backs & unexpected requests, we slid into into the eldercare (r)evolution, committed to setting our culture’s woeful attitude toward “aging” on its head, coming up with something that is better for everyone. Note – “committed,” not “obsessed.”
Although it’s a mission John & I would have initially avoided altogether, it didn’t take long to realize that we have a blast helping older friends be as much their full self as each moment allowed. We could see the power of walking into a restaurant & having the staff’s faces light up seeing our friends, of having performers give shout outs during sets, of having shop owners come out from the office to say hello.
My marketing background instilled in me an appreciation of differentiators – like the bonus we bring just by the fun we have hanging out together, a playfulness that compounds by another’s presence, our teamwork in frivolous & practical ways (like John escorting a client into a Center City jazz supper club while I parked the car). And our older guy friends like having another fella around!
We love what we do, are well-suited to it & committed to helping older friends be as fully themselves as possible. Yep, we were committed – right up to this past July, when that swung into being my magnificent obsession.
Over six days*, my eyes were opened to all we bring to the eldercare (r)evolution – and beyond! People in positions to know drove home how uniquely equipped & positioned John & I are to tackle a culture that leaves far too many, old & young. feeling increasingly devoid of a sense of genuine connection place belonging.
Although I always had an inkling our work encompasses all ages, its depth & breadth has become clear over the past ten days, coming a bit as a shocker. If someone had hauled out a crystal ball at the summer’s start & shown us as advocates for more resilient relationship networks & communities, I’d have hooted it down as ludicrous. Yet now, at summer’s end, it’s clear that nurturing those two things are the common thread through our connection in all we do, with wee littles, tweens, twenty-somethings up to oldsters elders ancients.
Our title is “playfulness coach” but our core calling is turns out the mission we’ve chosen to accept is to nurture a sense of connection place belonging in an age that finds all ages increasingly isolated & disconnected.
Informed by the past, acting in the present. John & I strive for a future that’s better than our now. Where we were reluctant to engage, John & I act. Helping with a problem transformed into a passion. And while our means of serving it remain play & friendship, our mission keeps deepening.
It’s a mission that tapped us, yet we eagerly enter the fray, joining others already on the field battling the isolation & loneliness that threatens to engulf all ages.
We bring the forces of play & friendship to the fight to preserve protect promote the core qualities that make life worth living at any age – love, belonging, a sense of place & of worthiness.
Hard to beat that for a magnificent obsession!
* I attended the International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics (IAGG) 21st quadrennial World Congress, July 22-27-