Reinventing the Image of Aging


July 7, 2015

Earlier this year, the American Society on Aging (ASA) held their annual conference, Aging in America. Over 3,000 attendees from 50 states and 15 countries traveled to Chicago, IL to participate in workshops and presentations on a wide range of aging-related topics. I was most pleased to be a first-time presenter and attendee.

A central theme of the conference was the dire need for a dramatic change in how we think and talk about aging in our country. Jo Ann Jenkins, the new CEO of the AARP, eloquently challenged all attendees to reinvent their image of aging.

A photo by JD Mason.

She asked us: “If you did not know how old you were, how old would you be?” Jenkins encouraged us to focus on how we truly feel rather than on how powerful media stereotypes influence us.

In that same spirit the session called the Upside of Aging, based on the popular book by Paul Irving, was a highly entertaining panel discussion between Irving and top professors from the USC Davis School of Gerontology. Banter about our chronological age (years) vs. our biological age (emotional and health profile) highlighted the need for us to shed our preconceived notions about aging.

For those who can’t imagine being a different age, there is a tool to help. The Biological Age website, playfully presents an alternative to your current birth-date; though my driver’s license indicates I’m 48, apparently my mindset and body are only 32!

The idea of “Maturity Re-imagined” was also core to the conference. Fascinating information about the new reality of retirement and how we age with purpose was explored. One myth dispelled: the idea that retirement means the end of work.

According to market research firm, Age Wave, the truth is that nearly half (47%) of today’s retirees say they either have worked or plan to work during their retirement, and in the last seven years, workers age 55+ accounted for all workforce growth.

Perhaps even more interesting, retirees are four times more likely to say they are continuing to work in retirement because they “want to” (80%) rather than because they “have to” (20%). What is the prevailing reason given for ongoing work – to stay mentally active.

Keynote speaker, Ken Dychtwald, shared his thoughts on the need for a Global Elder Corp that can serve not just as workers, but also as inspirational mentors to all ages. The 3-minute YouTube video showcasing the CNA Speaking Exchange between young students in Brazil and seniors at a retirement community in Chicago, IL is just such an example of Dychtwald’s vision.

The conference also featured an Exhibit Hall that showcased more than 100 vendor products and services for our aging population and their families.  There were many interesting companies, but these 3 vendors really stood out as solutions I wished my parents had when they were aging-in-place:

  • Mom’s Meals is a home delivery service of refrigerated meals that will stay fresh for up to 14 days; all the choices are healthy, easy to open and microwavable. Pricing is $6.49 per meal; you can order 7, 14 or 21 meals for a fixed shipping fee of $14.95.
  • Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest ones; Reminder Rosie is essentially an alarm clock that can be set with a number of verbal reminders that family members or caregivers can record for their loved ones.
  • Certified Care Senior Auditors launched a new service mission in 2014: to provide individuals and families with personal auditors who will check on your loved ones. During each visit auditors review a number of different factors that determine if your loved one is receiving the caregiving services they (or you) are paying for – whether those services are in-home or at a facility.For more information on what a Senior Care Auditor is, check out this FAQ.


Articles you  might find interesting:

Rethinking Old Age for the New Century 

How We Can All Make The Physical Experience Of Old Age Easier

36 Life Hacks for Aging in Place

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