Redefining Your Aging Journey
by Erin McLeod, Senior Friendship Centers President/CEO
Years ago I worked with a wise boss who described the aging journey drawing an ellipse. He explained it like this, starting with the small end of the shape: When we’re born, our world is very small – a little bed, our parents and maybe a sibling. We go to school, have friends, soon we are driving, graduate, maybe even go to college. Our world expands even more as we start a career, get married and have a family, surround ourselves with other families. We relocate outside our hometown, travel for leisure to see the world and realize there are other people, ideas, and cultures. Our realm continues to grow as we build our network of friends and colleagues, we contribute to the community and volunteer, finding meaning and purpose, even more so in retirement.
The reverse end of that ellipse begins for many when there is the death of a spouse or good friends. We stop traveling, driving, and getting out. Today families are mobile, so being surrounded by adult children and their kids is no longer the norm. Health, mobility, and transportation challenges begin to define and confine us.
The opposite end of the ellipse is in sight. It’s common to walk through an assisted living facility where folks are very frail. They are sitting in a chair, looking out of a window. The world has gotten smaller again. Some people even end their life in bed, just like when they started. That’s where this ellipse ends. But, at Senior Friendship Centers, we are making the most of that middle part of the aging journey, stretching the boundaries espoused by society that aging means “less.” Instead, we believe lives continue to be expansive and older adults are encouraged to redefine aging.
This May we are honored to celebrate Older Americans Month with the rest of the nation. This year’s theme, Aging Unbound, offers an opportunity to discover life’s experiences and promote the importance of enjoying life at every age.
Aging Unbound has been something Senior Friendship Centers has advocated for 50 years. With a mission to build vibrant communities by advancing wellness, connection, and enrichment throughout the journey of aging, by trying new things, exploring new ideas, and expanding their world with great conversations, exposure to new people, and innovative programming.
Here are a few examples of how Senior Friendship Centers creates the place for Aging Unbound:
Embrace change. Whether it’s stroking the paintbrush, strumming the guitar, or paddling the pickleball, our varied programs allow people to find their passion and push their boundaries by not letting age define their limits. They invite creativity and purpose into their lives by trying new activities that bring them more growth, joy, and energy.
Explore the rewards that come with age. With age comes knowledge, which provides insight and confidence to understand and experience the world more deeply. Senior Friendship Centers challenges critical thinking through discussion groups such as Aging Rebels, where seniors of multiple generations create new paths, redefine their expectations, and reinvent themselves. They expand their knowledge through our Lifelong Learning programs that offer workshops and educational courses featuring local, regional, and national experts.
Stay engaged in community. A society benefits when everyone is connected and involved. At Senior Friendship Centers we provide a multitude of volunteer opportunities, from greeting people at the welcome desk, visiting local seniors, instructing exercise classes, entertaining, and more. Volunteering creates a sense of meaning, purpose, and mattering as those contributions make for a healthier community.
Form new relationships. Isolation is so damaging. It can lead to depression and cognitive decline. Instead of sitting at home and watching TV, find yourself at Senior Friendship Centers where people come together to share new ideas, gain unique perspectives and further develop their thinking. These connections can be lifesavers and thoroughly enrich lives.
Since 1973, Senior Friendship Centers has continued to provide opportunities to find a new passion, grow knowledge, and stay connected with the community. World-renowned Activity Centers are filled with light, energy, and people enjoying a noon lunch, taking classes, exercising, playing cards, socializing over coffee, and being creative. People are listening and dancing to live music, learning a foreign language, and learning about brain health. They are giving back with their time and talents, too. Our Adult Day Care is also available for adults with dementia and other frailties of aging to engage in music, art or pet therapy, healthy exercises for mind and body, and most importantly socialization. These individuals aren’t just surviving – they’re thriving!
Aging Unbound is about all the possibilities, not decline. As we celebrate Older Americans Month, cheers to those who are challenging this narrative and redefining what aging is all about! We invite you come and be part of Senior Friendship Centers and learn more about how to create new possibilities throughout your aging journey with us at www.friendshipcenters.org.