Arrrggghhh! Ageist assumptions strike again!

A young friend – in her mid thirties? – wrote a blog post today about her wonderful Dad, who died suddenly some years back.  She observes – “Today would be my dad’s 75th birthday. He would not have liked that milestone, but I sure would have.”

I doubt it.  I bet that he would take one look at how well his children have done, how his grandkids are flourishing & he’d be smug as a bug in a rug to be a glorious 75 years.  He might have dreaded it in his 60s & I’m sure he would have camped up his horror for one & all, but in his heart…  Nah – he’d take one look at all those beloved faces, remember all the memories, and been the soul of happiness to be a “geezer.”

 

The challenge of aging

I yelped with joy, reading Connie Goldman‘s sense of what we’re, each & everyone,  called to do  ~ ~ “The challenge of aging isn’t to stay young;  it’s not only to grow old, but to grow whole – to come into your own.

That is a great quote because it is as true when we are twenty as when we’re inching up to ninety.  ALL of our life is about being all thoroughly all that we are as possible, whatever our situation or circumstances.

What too often blocks our way is having our aging ever upward woven into a cultural fabric that seems to disengage from grasping the importance & power of true elderhood, that puts barriers in the way of continued growth – in the name of convenience.

Life was never meant to be convenient.  It’s SUPPOSED to be challenging & messy, enriching & inconvenient, expansive & exasperating.  From first breath to last.

Older people need advocates, people who help brush aside physical, emotional, even mental barriers.  Every step these essentials take, every action, helps them grow whole, helps them come more fully into their own.

The life they enrich, that they help give the space to grow whole, may be their own!

 

 

OUCH! Age discrimination bites Ohio State in butt

Yes, the university claims “But we did nothing wrong.”  However, the facts speak for themselves.  To quote from the NY Times’ always meaty The New Old Age – –

The university denied that it had acted unlawfully and took no action against any employee.

But the university has rehired both women and agreed to back pay and retroactive benefits totaling about $203,000 for Ms. Taaffe and $237,000 for Ms. Moon. It also paid $325,000 in attorneys’ fees to the Gittes Law Group, the  firm representing the women, and the AARP Foundation lawyers who joined their suit. 

More important, the plaintiffs won “prospective injunctive relief,” actions to avert illegal policies in the future. Ohio State has agreed to train human resources staff to recognize, investigate and prevent age discrimination. 

AMEN & HALLELUJAH!  And by having more seasoned minds on staff rather than put out to pasture, the university will benefit more than short-sighted administrators can imagine!

 

Chip Conley’s “mutual mentoring” sets my heart aflutter

Even as I put out a welcome mat to Chip Conley, who promises to be a core disruptor of our current woeful culture around aging, felt a tad cautious that his Modern Elder Academy  would “boutique” the challenges & opportunities of bridging from middle age into older adulthood.  Optimism was tempered by caution.

So I dug & delved.  And became a true believe.

I love what is promised in Wisdom@Work, the making of a modern elder.  Am totally in synch with his view of olders feeling invisible by today’s youth-focused work place,  devalued & openly threatened by a forces that put us on the outside.  Chip believes the day of being redeemed & restored is at hand, that corporate power brokers recognize the folly of dismissing – figuratively & literally – crucial core sources of the humility, emotional intelligence & (gasp!) wisdom it once found woefully archaic.

Dear to my heart is his dedication to  intergenerational mentoring – both ways, with olders as both teacher & student, master & novice.  Amen & hallelujah!

For all to succeed, youngers have to open up to NOT knowing everything on the face of the Earth & olders have to open up to learning something whiz bang different than what made them successful in earlier careers.  Cross training that’s intergenerational outreach.  Gotta love it.

Over-the-moon with his term “curious learner” – – such a need on all sides for that quality.

Reading the various interviews, listening to Chip speak, am struck with how we all need to revamp expectations of mentoring, of what passes as crucial within a business model, what defines success & what’s needed to achieve it.  Take it deeper, richer, MORE.

His comments about how thirsty young professionals are for tutoring from old hands brought to mind The Intern, a film that was basically panned but which I found pretty spot on.  The 20- & early 30-somethings were hungry for what they considered the cool vibe wisdom for an old codger, who went from relic to revered.  And he got as much as he gave.

When Chip says olders have to repackage themselves – bring it on!  I’ve seen people embrace that challenge, rise to the occasion & ace the new opportunities around them, or brush it off & sink.  It’s not reinventing as much as furthering a remarkable evolution, one that reaches out in directions I never considered.

Let’s see – Chip gets involved at a incredibly young age developing successful boutique hotels, gets burned out as he approaches his fifties, sells them off at the bottom of the market, is recruited by Airbnb to lend his depth of experience to their successful but young, on all counts, business model, which he does & discovers his impression it’s a growth-minded model – leadership was as open to learning as they were to leading.

(Chip cracks me up when he notes, “Carol Dweck wrote a book Mindset long ago” – – it was published in 2007!  Eleven years is apparently an eon to him!)

How Chip describes Airbnb’s three leaders – freely admitting there’s a lot they don’t know & willing, eager to be life-long learners – describes the quality I’ve found in folks who age with enthusiasm & joy.  They are okay with not knowing everything & curious about what’s around the corner.

Still, it was his talk of “mutual mentorship” that set my heart racing.  The angels sang, trumpets sounded!

What was his example of mutual mentoring?  Airbnb connected with its most prolific users, which turned out NOT to be a pair of millennials but a 72 & 62-year old husband & wife traveling the world, staying solely at Airbnbs home.  The company promptly invited the elders in for a 10-week “senior internship program”!

And voila – Chip was taken even deeper into the importance & impact of intergenerational connections.   Deeper into the awareness of what has become Wisdom@Work & the Modern Elder Academy.

I was nervous, reading about the Modern Elder Academy.  Seemed more like a cool two weeks hanging out in a gorgeous place with beautiful people who are hardly in dire straits if they can afford the experience.  But instead of popping off, I kicked back & did my research & discovered that Chip tied his newest interest with a core strength.

This posting didn’t turn out at all how I expected when I started writing.  I was horrified that such important insights would be offered in such an exclusive setting.  It ended with me being mega impressed with the workings of Chip’s mind & its interaction with his heart, with being blown away with him tying it back to his early experience with hotels & his clear love of hospitality.

Which brings me back to mutual mentorship, which connects in my mind with Chip’s core sense of hospitality – he wants olders to feel welcome in the younger world & for them to welcome youngers to theirs.  Intergeneration symbiosis.  Deep chills & keen anticipation!

From zilch to ZOWIE!

Return with me to 2010, more or less the year it first fully hit that my life path had doubled back, taking me to one-on-one social enrichment work with olders elders ancients.

John & I discovered that the active, engaged, fun lives our mothers had experienced weren’t the norm for too many olders.  Mom M. was fully independent, except for the help John gave with heavy shopping, right up to her sudden death, at home, at 87.  My mother had her final fall hours before she was to throw a brunch down in Virginia for metro-D.C. based friends & family; five weeks later, as she was being discharged from a suburban-Philadelphia hospital for home & hospice, her doctor begged me to take one of the other patients, to leave Mom – “I know that if I’m feeling down, a visit to your mother’s room will leave me smiling.”  Oh, and she spent that last week answering e-mails from a local college’s Psych 101 students.

That was 09/2001.  Over the next 15+ years, John & I slowly discovered – to our great surprise – a gift for helping people be as fully themselves, whatever their situation or circumstance.  The challenge was finding information on helping olders connect to their creative cores.  There was LOTS of info on day-to-day functions, on diseases & cognitive impairments, on PROBLEMS associated with aging up through our 70s 80s 90s, but ZILCH on ways to support people without age-related conditions to STAY that way.

Determined to learn more, I looked to child-focused research, articles, book, because they sort of seemed somewhat close to what we sought.  And I was right!  Lots of material on engaging, connecting & growing relationship that related to both youngsters & oldies but goodies.

Over the years between our awakening  & today’s relative bonanza of books (think This Chair Rocks, Disrupt AgingEnding Ageism, or how not to shoot old people), I read countless unrelated books that somehow related directly to our goal of assuring older friends that they’re built to keep engaged energized empowered to their precious last breath, that they’ve sold themselves down the river with the myth that life after a certain age is destined by The Fates to be, at best, chronically tinged with soft lens depression.  The energies that lead me to them would lead me to The National Center for Creative Aging, to George Mason University’s Leading to Well-Being Conferences, to Positive Aging, to the IAGG World Congress – – to myself &  my full calling.

Business books were surprisingly helpful.  A lot about nurturing – in spite of perceived barriers – teams hit home.  I remember listening to some guy named Chip Conley give a TED Talk on a business model he’d developed using Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Having taught Maslow for five years to at-risk high school students – – who gave “needs” a whole new meaning to me – – it caught my eye & fired my imagination.

Some six years after hearing that TED Talk, am set a-shiver with chills & thrills – with thanks to Kari Henley – to hear that the very same Chip Conley is bringing karmic capitalism to sharp & savvy eldering in the guise of the Modern Elder.

Circle SEPTEMBER 18 on the calendar of everyone even remotely interested in living as vibrantly expansively wondrously as possible – – the date Wisdom@Work is being released!

From 2010 to 2018 – – how far attitudes about growing “O-L-D” have come, from “seniors” to seriously AWEsome.

Would say “Let the wonders begin!” – – but they already have!

From zilch to ZOWIE – and John  & I are right there, immersed in a movement no longer on the cusp but moving full throttle to fabulous.

“When Outside Factors Determine Retirement Age” NYT 01/09/15

An “ancient” posting of mine, over on older2elder, took me to an excellent 2015 New York Times article,  When Outside Factors Dictate Retirement Age.  Even more relevant today as on 01/09/15. As a member of the Radical Age Movement, Leslye Evans-Lane’s story leapt out at me.

The article describes the 60-year old board-certified academic coach as being ” in a situation where retirement might be the graceful choice.”

I was curious – what would inspire such a “graceful choice”?

Ah, it was a tale that’s all too prevalent in today’s culture.  Not a lack of ability & skills, but a limited expectation & frankly insulting assumptions of what an older person brings to today’s workforce.  The person choosing to exit gracefully isn’t the only loser – so is the company that could have gained from having talents teamed with experience.

After a move meant a job search, Ms. Evans-Lane found herself unable to find one that made use of those talents & expertise.  It didn’t dawn on people interviewing her that she was digitally proficient & they assumed that her age precluded her from doing what she’d done to great acclaim for years ~ relate to 18-year olds. done that before.”Another potential employer told her that she “couldn’t relate to 18-year-olds,” she recalled.

How well I & others know her feeling of “shock, denial and depression.” She never thought her field could be so short-sighted by ageism.  Nor did I.

Dominic Campbell & Creative Aging International – creating a new old

How do I break it to John that I’ve fallen head over heels for an Irishman?  Can only hope he’ll understand.  But DOMINIC CAMPBELL has stolen my heart.  Understandable.  How could I not feel swept off my feet by someone who speaks my heart when he says, “As people live for longer societies need to adapt. Creativity is key to adapting. (At Creative Aging International) we celebrate aging through various activities, programmes (definitely Irish) and festivals whose culture gently questions expectations of aging.”

Please note that I found Dominic AFTER planning A Creativity Jam for Age Justice as my way of showing solidarity with the big 05/15/18 Radical Age Movement rally in NYC.  I reached for something that would go beyond a protest – a celebration showcasing the creativity of olders elders ancients, that unites & uplifts, that shows the wow rather than woe of aging.

Together with Bea Kelleher, Dominic founded Creative Aging International, headquartered in Dublin, a group that pricks holes in expectations of aging by producing festivals that celebrate creativity in elders.  As they put it, “Our Festival series … showcases the creativity of older people. Here you can encounter world famous older artists alongside those starting to express their lifetime’s experience. ~ Celebrations bring people and organizations together. Challenging subjects addressed through entertainment become easier to engage with. Our festivals and events offer places for collective encounter.

Collective encounter – am stealing that phrase to help describe the Creativity Jam!

Dominic & Bea seek to bring the giddy fun & entrepreneurial spirit of entertainment to opening up perceptions of growing older in societies around the world.  Their events pair revenue-generating activities with ones that are open to all.  A win-win all around.

It quietly freaked me out, reading on their website the very reasons I opted to go with A Creativity Jam for Age Justice rather than something potentially laden with angst & agita to show solidarity with the 05/15/18 Central Park rally.  Art & performances by creatives who are 65+ teamed with discussion that recognizes the impact of age injustice on our society & ways to counteract it while presenting ways to approach “getting up there in years” with wonder instead of woe.

NextAvenue  has a dandy article on a conference Dominic helped organize last month right here it the USA  – – Creating a New Old San Francisco was a 1-day event devoted to considering ways to bring a fresh approach to aging in the City By The Bay.  The 200+ people who flocked to the Contemporary Jewish Museum for the event took a deep dive into issues around contemporary aging.

The reality is that we are expected to live significantly longer than our parents & grandparents, but precious little attention is being given to that reality by the powers-that-be.  And it’s small wonder – government & organizations tend to look at what is, to spin projections from present-day date, make forecasts of what they believe might be based on what currently is.

The solution lies not in our governments or institutions, but in our creatives, in our innovators, in the people who see potential, who spark innovation, with the vision to look beyond today’s reality to tomorrow’s possibilities, with imaginations that leap frog problems to solutions.  In people like Dominic Campbell.

Praise be for Creative Aging International’s  experience bringing together companies, organizations, individuals to create innovative programs that inspire & nurture new approaches to aging, that gathers together – as happened last month in San Francisco – best practices in contemporary aging & powers up the influence of thought leaders like Dominic.  (Be calm, my beating heart!)

Dominic & Creative Aging International are dedicated to transforming how people view & approach aging.  Not as a dire dilemma nor as an anxiety-laden issue, but with joy & celebration, with a light heart & committed vision that brings together creatives & others, individuals & companies, societies & governments.

As noted on Creative Aging International’s website, “Living longer is changing the way we live, where we live, and how we care for our aging selves and our beloveds. Older populations include the wealthiest and most fragile in society.  Change is crossing sectors from finance to transport, tech to fashion, housing to healthcare. ~ Creative approaches are rewriting the traditions of ageing, providing vision, connecting institutions and communities, nurturing well-being.”  Amen & hallelujah!

What’s not to love?!