When Katy Read at the Star Tribune posed the question on aging gracefully, many people responded. Does it mean, as Katy noted, ‘cheerfully accepting gray hair and other physical changes, the way Barbara Bush (87) seemingly does? Or, on the other hand, does it require staying eternally gorgeous as the years slide by, like Sophia Loren (77)? Is it keeping a busy schedule of work or public service, like Jimmy Carter (87) or Betty White (90)? Or being super fit, like 68-year-old champion long jumper Carl Etter of Duluth? Or maybe it’s gradually slowing down, relaxing, spending time in the garden, enjoying the grandchildren.
At Lifesprk, we believe in living sparked lives, and your age doesn’t matter. Too many people get caught up in misconceptions and fears about aging. Sparking lives is an ageless opportunity. In fact, when Katy asked, here’s how Lifesprk responded:
Joel Theisen, CEO and founder of Lifesprk (formerly AgeWell) an organization that provides home care and other services for seniors, has problems with the term itself. To him, “aging gracefully” sounds too safe and passive, too much about riding quietly off into the sunset.
“A lot of people want to project the image that we receive in this country of aging. Not to be a burden. Not to do too much to rock the boat,” he said. Don’t settle for graceful aging, Theisen said. He encourages people to “age passionately,” pursuing their interests and dreams with the help of loved ones and community resources.
Think, “What are my passions, what are my priorities, how do I get what I want?” Theisen urged. “I understand I’ve got some physical limitations, but I’ve got to find a way to live the way I envision myself living.”
And when we start by focusing on what is most meaningful to people, what gives them purpose/passion and a reason to get up in the morning, then we gain new perspectives and insights that help us engage them as partners in their well-being.
So what does it really mean to ‘age passionately’? It is a good question. Have you asked it about yourself lately? What about asking your patients/clients?