Written By: Jill Vitale-Aussem | President & CEO of CLC-Cappella
President and CEO, Jill Vitale-Aussem shares her perspective on addressing agism in senior living and the positive things that come with age. As written by Jill:
My sister, Janice, who’s a few years older than me, keeps me prepared for what to expect as I trail behind her in our quinquagenarian years (that’s just a fancy way of saying we’re in our fifties). I get texts like this from her:
Uh, just looked in the mirror. I have a neck wattle. Like a turkey neck. Just wait, you’ll probably get one too. You’ve been warned.
Gahhh! Had no idea that my earlobes would get wrinkles when I got old. Check your earlobes.
Have realized face is saggy and am proclaiming that from now on all pictures of me must be taken from above while I’m lying on my back on the floor. Take note of that for family pic at Christmas.
Through her silly and entertaining texts, Janice describes the shock many of us feel as our bodies start to change as we come out the other side of middle-age. Between the wrinkly skin and new aches and pains, it’s far too easy to focus only on the troubling changes in our bodies that come with age.
New Gifts and Awakenings
But getting older is multi-faceted – with each passing year comes momentum, new gifts and new awakenings.
One day, I was talking with a group of women in one of our communities. It was a casual conversation. They were talking about what a drag it is to get old—the wrinkles, the aches, the myriad doctor appointments, and so on. These ladies were lobbing ailments and complaints back and forth so quickly I could barely keep up.
It struck me that this was an opportunity to change the conversation. So I asked this simple question, “What’s awesome about aging?”
They looked at me like I was crazy.
“What kind of question is that?” One woman demanded, “Did you just ask us what’s awesome about aging? You have to be joking.”
“No.” I said, “I mean it. Tell me what gets better as you get older?”
There was silence.
And finally one woman said tentatively, “Well, you get discounts at stores.”
They all nodded.
Another chimed in, “I have more free time now.”
Wisdom That Comes With Age
And then, the conversation transitioned to a deeper level. The women began talking about the perspective and wisdom that come with age and the way in which they now understand what matters in life.
We started talking about the “happiness curve” and how numerous studies have found that people generally report higher levels of well-being in their later years than in middle age or any other point in their lives. We talked about the research suggesting that elders tend to better understand different points of view, can more easily identify compromises and come up with more solutions to a problem than their younger counterparts.
This was all new information to them. At the end of the conversation, the women were noticeably happier, their voices full of excitement instead of dread. They sat up straighter and had a little more pep in their step when they left the room.
We’re all aging, every minute of every day. And, if we’re lucky, we’ll reach Elderhood. Research shows that if we embrace the momentum and positive things that come with aging, we’ll likely have a better and longer life. Finding gratitude in the aging process just makes sense.
So, if you find yourself at the mirror examining your new-found neck wattle and wrinkly earlobes, step back and find a few moments to ask yourself: what do I know now that I didn’t know when I was younger? In what ways is my life better? And remember the quote that “aging is just another word for living.”
*pieces of this blog are adapted from Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: a Mindshift
Resources for Addressing Agism in Senior Living
For more resources addressing agism visit the Pioneer Network and explore their resource library.
About the Author
Jill Vitale-Aussem serves as President & CEO of Christian Living Communities, a Colorado-based, not-for-profit, faith-based organization serving more than 3,000 older adults and their families through its 23 owned and managed communities located in six states as well as its services of adult day, home care and consulting.