May is Older Americans Month The SeniorScape™
Ageing is a process, a process that begins from the time we are born.
We should not consider it to be arriving at an age as the end point of what we can achieve. We can continue to grow, change, find or fulfill our passions, become an adventure capitalist and not let society, or our own impression define what is the limit of our lives.
I recall reading and writing about the news story that Gina Lollobrigida, legendary, actress of Hollywood’s Golden Age, was running for a seat in the Italian Senate. At 95 years of age. She was quoted in the Italian Newspaper Corriere della Sera saying, "Italy is in bad shape, I want to do something good and positive". She spoke of being inspired by Matahma Gandhi for his “way of doing things, for his non-violence." and a friend to Indira Gandhi. She states being “determined to stay creative” and wants to use some of that energy for “important things, especially for my country.”
There’s much written about limiting beliefs: limiting beliefs in business, finance, money attitudes, and the like. Books, videos, webinars, coaching programs galore, all talk about the ways in which limiting beliefs impact our lives.
Few, however, talk about how limiting beliefs apply specifically to our society’s view of age, and indeed, how that impact’s our own attitude about our own age.
One of my pet peeves, is hearing a person use the word “old” disparagingly when referring to themselves. Indeed, older person would be far more dignified and respectful.
My manicurist of ten years at age 50, has repeatedly referred to himself as being “too old”. Each time I admonish him for what can be akin to being a traveler on the road of self-loathing. When I do, he often agrees. Interestingly, he comes from a culture that reveres people as they age. Now living in the U.S. for many decades, he is far away from that land. I suspect he has unfortunately adopted and internalized some of America’s ageist attitudes. He no longer refers to himself in that way when speaking with me, but I don’t know if he has actually changed his attitude towards himself. I certainly hope so.
The other day I met a woman in her 80s on the way from a posh Continuum Care Community to a doctor’s appointment. When she referred to herself as elderly.
I informed her that I don’t use that word because of the connotation. After explaining how using such a word can impact a person’s feeling about themselves, she agreed. She vowed that she would refer to herself differently moving forward.
As we talked, she then told me that, despite now depending on a rollator to walk long distances, she remained hopeful that she could travel to destinations she always wanted to see. By the time we departed, I think she changed her thinking about the possibility of her doing so. I was proud to have made an impact in how she thought about herself.
Thus, in this Older Americans month, let’s celebrate the possibilities. After all, as it is said, what you believe, you can achieve. Let’s not call it quits, think we’re past our prime and past our time. Let’s not let society dictate what we can achieve.
Here are a couple of mentions of people I know personally who continue to explore, strive, use their talents and capabilities and fulfill their dreams and desires.
Michael Houlihan now in his 80s, cofounder of Barefoot Wines with his partner Bonnie Harvey, is not sitting on his laurels enjoying the success after creating one of the most successful international wine brands. Michael is a much sought-after speaker, consultant, and best-selling author. He and Bonnie have created an innovative way of inspiring leaders to build their companies. They continue to work as hard as they did to create Barefoot Wines to inspire the next generation through their innovative approach to leadership.
One of my dearest friends is a life-long educator. At age 81, she now has the time on her hands to explore opportunities to make an impact on the educational system in the community where she lives. Spring boarding from a four-year term is a member of her local education committee, she is now running for her local city council.
A fellow business associate treasures a painting from his friend who, in his 90’s taught himself to paint. The exquisite painting that his friend completed at age 96 is forever perched on his mantel as a reminder of the possibilities in his own life.
Ron Klein, creator of the magnetic strip on credit cards that allows us all to pay with a swipe, has created a unique digital business card. But he hasn’t stopped there. These days, he is so busy he hardly has time for a conversation. He’s now working with national chains exploring the use of QR codes to create an easier daily shopping experience for consumers.
As I’ve done much research for books and articles about ageism and society’s ageist attitudes. I came across many stories about pursuits and accomplishments of people in the older years of their lives. In sharing a few of them here in the hopes it will inspire thinking about the limitless possibilities as a person advances in age and, hopefully, help dispel some ageist attitudes, both those internalized and those about others.
Former president George H.W. Bush celebrated his 90th birthday by jumping out of an airplane, skydiving just as he did in each of the birthdays in each of the previous five-year increments, 80 and 85.
Donzella Washington, at the age of 80, graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in social work from Alabama A & M University in December 2019. Her overall GPA was 3.4; however, she achieved a perfect 4.0 in her last semester.
Anne Martindell, after graduating from Smith College at the age of 87, was honored by the New Jersey Legislature in June 2002. She is the only graduate from Smith College to have simultaneously received undergraduate and honorary degrees.
Her memoir, Never Too Late, chronicles the course of her studies. She entered her first year at Smith College as a member of the class of 1936 but was forced to drop out a year later because her father didn’t approve of women becoming educated. She pursued a career in politics, serving as a New Jersey state senator, the director of the office of the U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, and as the United States Ambassador to New Zealand and Western Samoa. after raising her family of four children, she reentered Smith college in 1999 at the age of 84 and received her degree in American Studies. When she entered the college, she did so as a prestigious Ada Comstock scholar.
Charlie Ball’s enlistment in WWII interrupted his college education just shy of his graduation, but his dream to finish college was never far from his mind. At the age of 89, Charlie Ball was the oldest alumni after graduating from Arkansas tech.
He had been trained as a pilot by what was known as the army air corps. After discharge, he continued taking intermittent classes. But he states that once he became a grandfather, he wanted to set an example for his grandchildren. He was known as a popular man on campus, and his tenacity served as an inspiration to many of the school’s students.
These are but a few examples. You may have some of your own. Feel free to comment and share. I'd love to hear them.
Remember, if you can dream it, you can believe it, and you can make it happen.
The time has not passed by. Live Life with Purpose and Passion!!!!
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