Written by: Jill Vitale-Aussem, President and CEO of CLC-Cappella Living Solutions
I recently received a letter from Dee, a former resident of one of our communities who has moved out of state. In her letter, Dee compiled a list of all of the things she had done during her time at our community – writing blogs, raising money for the Alzheimer’s Association and Resident Assistance Fund, creating programs to help her neighbors, and speaking on panels at aging services conferences. I was struck that she had taken the time to hand-write four pages detailing not how great the services were at the community, but about how she gave back and made her community stronger and more vibrant. Her experience, she said, led to an “awakening of her inner self”.
Too often we frame older people as being nothing more than consumers of services. But what Dee described wasn’t the experience of being a helpless customer. Instead, she was an active citizen – someone who found deep and meaningful purpose in being of service to her community, team members and fellow residents. And Dee’s actions also have likely impacted her health. There is research galore showing that living with meaningful purpose leads to a longer and happier life.
National Senior Citizens Day is a perfect time to reflect on the power of purpose.
The definition of a Senior Citizen as “an elderly person, especially one who is retired and living on a pension” isn’t terribly inspirational. In fact, it’s pretty darn depressing, defining our later years as nothing more than no longer being employed. It’s no wonder so many people rail against being called senior citizens. And worse, in our common vernacular, we have shortened the term to just “senior”, completely removing the word citizen.
It’s time to shift these frameworks and definitions of what it means to be old. So we’re shaking things up by reframing Senior Citizens Day to Senior Citizenship Day. Why? Citizenship is an active phrase and it’s something we can all practice, at every age. Senior Citizenship speaks to harnessing the experiences, knowledge and momentum we have gained over the years to make a positive impact in our neighborhoods, our communities, and the world.
We can all make a difference, no matter our age or abilities. Big impactful projects are wonderful but even the smallest acts of kindness and generosity can have ripple effects that strengthen and energize our communities. So find a place to share your gifts. The world needs you.
Happy Senior Citizenship Day!