For most of my professional life, I have worked to create services and supports for older people. My interest was sparked years ago. After living in our crowded household for much of my childhood, my grandmother finally had the opportunity to live on her own. A former hotel in an adjacent community was renovated into senior housing, and my grandmother rented a studio apartment.
While I can’t recall how my grandma initially felt about making this move, it was unquestionably clear that this was the right decision for her. With enormous pride, she showed us every inch of her tiny one-room unit. The importance of this private space far exceeded the square footage of the apartment. Even as a teenager awkwardly trying to fit into my own limited universe, I fully understood that it was critical for my grandma to have a world of her own.
My grandma’s transformation fueled my interest in helping older people retain their independence and dignity. Over the years, I’ve set up a shared living arrangement to enable nursing home residents to live in a community setting; developed congregate and home delivered meal programs; targeted corporate and federal funds to create local support services; launched a national elder care network to assist older relatives of Fortune 500 companies; and given visibility to the benefits of affordable independent senior housing.
In each of these positions, I relished the opportunity to forge relationships with older people. I’ve met countless elderly men and women who have shared their experience and wisdom with me. I found that if I took the time to make these connections, the faceless crowd of older people suddenly transformed into unique individuals with gifts to offer.
My goal for this blog is to challenge the stereotypes of old age. For me, this is most effectively done through introductions to amazing, yet ordinary, people. Through their actions, perspectives, and ability to maintain their sense of self, they successfully knock down these labels daily.
For now, Acting Our Age will focus on the journeys of women aged 85+. While there are countless interesting older men to showcase, I am currently fascinated with the paths taken by women who have lived through a time of significant change.
These women, some of whom vividly recall their mothers marching for the right to vote, may have the opportunity to watch as a woman raises her hand on the steps of Congress and swears to uphold the Constitution as president of the United States. It would be shortsighted to say that these women lived through these changes when in so many ways they ignited the changes.