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What I Learned on International Woman's Day The SeniorScape®




I was thrilled when asked to participate in an International Women’s Day event representing the United States for the G100.

 

It took me some time to determine the content of my presentation, and even as I made the decision, I wasn’t completely confident how it would apply to the event or the significance of the day.

 

After all, people often ask me how I went from being a speech/language pathologist in nursing homes to being an advocate and spokesperson for the quality of life and quality of care that our eldest citizens receive

and coaching people to develop strategies that support their longevity journey in the best health possible.

 

I began with what I always refer to as the through line to my work in nursing homes.

 

My mother traveled 2 ½ hours several times a week to help care for her mother, who had Parkinson’s disease and had broken her hip as a result of a fall. A story that is probably familiar to many people. But when the toll of the traveling on my mother and the family became too great, the next best solution was to move ‘Grandma’ into a nursing home a few blocks from where we lived. Thus, my mother could be at her mother’s side during her waking hours. I was 17 then, and when my parents took a vacation, I stepped in to fill the gap for my mother.

 

That seems to have led me to my work in nursing homes. My 50-year career in that space has shaped my advocacy for the quality of life and care our eldest citizens receive.

 

I went on to connect that journey to my 1st three books. The goal was always for people to become more informed and effective advocates for their loved one’s care by explaining what they need to know from an inside perspective. It’s akin to pulling back the curtain to reveal what’s happening when a person needs care for themselves or a loved one.

 

But in that process, I had a bigger vision. How can I raise awareness and highlight this on a national level?

 

My chapter in the book Think Big, outlines that vision.

 

A film based on two novels that highlight the importance of elders in our society, the relationship with younger generations, and the work they can do together to find solutions to life’s most significant problems. This laid the groundwork for my philosophy about elderhood.

 

That led me to realize that in my 7th decade of life, the importance of passion, drive, and purpose at any age is crucial for continuing to live with joy and energy. In my case, my passions are leading me on an entirely different path. Two of the most essential ingredients are mindset and attitude.

 

My chapter in WTF, to OMG with a Little LOL came about through a conversation once again with an experience that stemmed from my youth. My father passed when I was 17. He was diabetic. During the conversation with the book’s author, I recalled that my father didn’t always heed the advice and direction offered to him by his doctor, nor from my wise mother. I can still hear the conversations and his reply when my mother told him he shouldn’t be eating some foods. As a result, he died suddenly.

 

At that moment, I realized that he did not take responsibility for his health and well-being to the highest possible level. I tied this to my work in nursing homes, where thousands of people suffer from conditions that could potentially have been avoided by making different choices.

 

This started me on my journey as a coach helping people develop their Longevity Wellness Action Plan, so they can live as healthfully and gracefully as possible, hopefully avoiding the dreaded decline often associated with people as they advance in years. Many of those conditions are not foregone conclusions.

 

Last but not least is the book IMPACT. The chapter came from an off-hand conversation about the sandwich generation, the millions of people with job and family responsibilities also caring for older parents or loved ones. The greatest number of the 59 million Americans of the sandwich generation are between 40-59 years of age; actually, 71% fall in that age group. I likened it to sending out a distress S.O.S. call, in this case stretched – overwhelmed and stretched. That became the basis of the chapter in IMPACT.

 

Where does all of this lead?

 

It led to passion about combatting ageism because, ultimately, society’s attitude towards older adults affects how we feel about ourselves as we get older. Despite efforts to move the needle, American society, in particular, remains youth-centric. Older people are marginalized, disregarded, and expected to retire—to live segregated from the rest of society to live out their remaining years.

 

 We all participate in an ageist society in one form or another. People may love the older people in their families, amongst their friends, or in their communities, but as a society, we don’t value older adults or treat them with the dignity or respect they deserve.

 

In Mahatma Gandhi's words, “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” 

 

Efforts to change the conversation or depict a different version of older adults remain conflicted, and the lessons entrenched in our society die hard. This is as true for any of the isms: sexism, racism, ageism.

 

One does not often think about the last one as being one of society’s ills, but it is as much a human rights issue as any other. 

 

Other cultures and societies value their eldest citizens. Since 1966, the 3rd Monday in September has been a national holiday in Japan to value older adults. It’s called Respect for Aged Day to celebrate centenarians. It originally started to thank the eldest in the community and to learn from them and their experiences. Native American culture values its older adults, and many religions value their elders as wise leaders to be consulted for their wise counsel.

 

Each of the foregoing steps was like rungs on a ladder, finally culminating in fulfilling a 3-year goal to get onto a TEDx stage. The purpose was to deliver a talk that considers all of the above, but especially my concept that we are all evolving elders.

 

 How can we truly change how society views older adults, which ultimately affects how we feel about ourselves as we age?

 

 If we can think of ourselves as evolving elders, that it is an active process that lives inside of each of us from the time we are young. When we look at an older person, we can think they have been each of us from the time we are young, and we ultimately are all of them. That’s it’s a stage we are striving to reach, just like a person strives to become a senior in high school, a senior in college, a senior partner at a firm, have seniority at a job, or reach the highest summits in the world like Mount Everest or Mount Kilimanjaro.

 

As the Ambassador for Conscious Aging Life Management, it is my responsibility to coach people to create what I call their Longevity Wellness Action Plan so they can continue to live as healthfully and gracefully as they possibly can.

 

Its roots are in the pillars of wellness: Mindset or Mindfulness,

Exercise, Nutrition (including Hydration) Sleep, Appreciation.

Understanding that wellness is a mindset, a choice, and predicated on taking actions that are aligned with wellness. These ideas may be simple, but they are not easily applied. It takes breaking unproductive habits in favor of new productive habits. It takes dedication and willingness to change course or, if you will, get on a different track.

 

But, it has to be believed and believed that it can be a reality, and a belief in the principle that it can be achieved at any age.

 

I assume responsibility as an International Spokesperson for Elder Empowerment, guiding people and organizations to understand that in order to live, thrive, and continue in a life worth living, one needs to live with purpose.

 

I concluded my presentation by saying that finding your purpose, passion, and drive, is essential to your path to wellness so you can continue to live as healthfully, gracefully and joyfully as possible.

 

Finally, while preparing this presentation, I realized the importance of International Women’s Day.

 

My entire life’s work was inspired by my mother, who, when I was age 15, traveled all those hours to care for my grandmother. It is not only to my work as a speech/language pathologist in the nursing home space, but everything that was informed as a result of that.

 

Who is the important woman in your life? Is there one person in particular who inspired you?

 

Let them know if the answer is yes and that person is still present in your life. If not, consider writing them a letter as if they are. You may have insights that will be inspiring.  Mine was for me; I hope they will be the same for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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