Creative Aging Expert

August 2009

In This Issue

Quotes on Aging

"Americans have an almost insatiable appetite for staying young...Millions struggle in some way to resist, delay, deny, outwit or camouflage the dreaded enemy-aging...But youth has been oversold and aging has value that we as a culture haven't acknowledged."
    Connie Goldman, author Secrets of Becoming a Late Bloomer and The Ageless Spirit.
"It is the old apple trees that are decked with the loveliest blossoms. It is the ancient redwoods that rise to majestic heights. It is the old violins that produce the richest tones. It is the aged wine that tastes the sweetest. It is ancient blessings of age and the wisdom, patience and maturity that go with it. Old is wonderful."
    Sister Mary Gemma Brunke
"Old age, I've decided is a gift. I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be."
    Anonymous, from Second Journey, Itineraries, Spring 2009.
"There is more money being spent on breast implants and Viagra today than on Alzheimer's research. This means that by 2040, there should be a large elderly population with perky boobs and huge erections and absolutely no recollection of what to do with them."
    Source: Internet

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Building Communities Where People Can Age in Place

A recent workshop sponsored by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and Partners for Livable Communities noted that most boomers prefer to "age in place"-remaining in their homes and communities, even if they experience a debilitating illness. Many communities are not configured for a population that cannot drive, and many homes are not accessible for people who can't climb stairs. Robert McNulty of Partners for Livable Communities commented, "We have to move aging from the health-care agenda into the civic agenda. Most of our communities...are still almost unlivable for people with disabilities, for particularly vulnerable elderly and for people with low incomes."

A 2005 survey of 10,000 communities across the country showed that less than half were planning for the surge of baby boomers turning 65 during the next two decades. The number of boomers will double between now and 2020. Richmond, Virginia, has set up the Older Dominion Partnership, an initiative bringing together business, government and others to plan for this demographic shift.

Swampscott, Massachusetts, is thinking ahead on the senior surge. They decided to build their new high school with a 6,500-square-foot senior center. Many communities are trying to find new answers to where and how Boomers will live in the future. The Swampscott approach — leveraging existing infrastructure to address the needs of teenagers and older citizens at the same time is more than smart — it is practical. High School students are volunteering at the senior center earning community service credits and seniors are volunteering at the library allowing it to stay open longer.

In Phoenix, Arizona, Joe Johnson divided his 400 acre farm into parcels for a planned intergenerational community. He laid out the street plan to foster community and social interaction. The centerpiece is an assisted-living building next to the community center and pool. He also got zoning rights for a second dwelling unit-an 800-square-foot bungalow on most home lots — with the intent that a family could share a lot with an older parent or family member living separately and independently. He completed his vision by including community farm land, so the 450-dwelling community could benefit from local produce. He named his new community "Agritopia." Information for this piece came from an article by Kiersten Ware in the April 30, 2009, Boston Globe, and a June 18, 2009 Richmond Times Dispatch article by Tammie Smith.

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Dr. Donohue on Jump Roping

In earlier newsletters I mentioned jump roping as a good way to exercise. Dr. Donohue had a column on it recently in the Richmond Times Dispatch. He says that jump roping is as good an exercise as anyone can do for promoting heart health. Not only does skipping rope improve cardiac performance, it develops coordination and agility. It strengthens leg muscles and upper-body muscles, too. He concedes that it is a difficult exercise and one that must be entered into slowly.

Some things are important to keep in mind so that it is a doable exercise without injury. One is the length of the rope. Put your feet on the center of the rope and draw the ends upward. The right-size rope should reach to just under the armpits. The jump should be only high enough to clear the rope. Too high a jump stresses the knees. Land on the balls of your feet with the knees slightly bent. Wear shoes that cushion your landing. If possible jump on a giving surface, like a wooden floor or the lawn.

Start out with a very modest time of continued jumping, one or two minutes. Much more will leave you breathless. Gradually increase the time. After two months you'll be able to do 15 minutes at a stretch. In the beginning, turn the rope about 70 times a minute, a little more than once a second. While you're increasing the time of jumping, simultaneously increase the speed of rope turning.

If any of you try this challenging exercise let me hear how it works for you.

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Your Wild and Precious Life

Below is an edited version of an article that was published in the September 2008 issue of the Positive Aging Newsletter by Mary and Ken Gergen.

Tell me what will you do with your one wild and precious life? -Mary Oliver
Each of us loves this question, and yet it also makes us shudder a bit. With some anxiety we ask if we have done enough with the decades already given us. We hope, perhaps, that if others were to hear us tell our stories, there would be much that was precious, and indeed, an ample supply of "wild." At the same time, there is something about the question that also suggests closure. It asks us to think backward from the present moment, as if we had reached the end.

As so much of the research we report in this newsletter suggests, this would be unfortunate. Rather, as the common adage goes, we gain in health, energetic engagement and a sense of well-being if we can think about each day as the first day of the rest of our lives. In this way, we ask about the potential for each day to bring forth flowers of both precious and wild varieties.

Ideally no hour should go by in which we cannot find a little gem of wisdom, of humor, of love, of action. If it isn't there beside us, then we would be well-served by stretching our arms a bit to find it. There is always a piece of chocolate to eat, a hug to share, a thank-you note to write, a phone call to a friend, an instrument to play, a book to open, a putt to make, a sweater to knit, a child to play with, a new recipe to try, a new journey to plan, a neighbor to visit, or a hammock to swing in.

Today, a man in a shop talked about his mother. She had rented a house in the Alps in Austria and was taking a hiking trip. He said,"She is trying to find her life again. My Dad died this year, and this is what she's doing to start over. When I was a baby my folks were tour guides for teenagers traveling by bus around Europe...Then they stopped touring so they could raise a family and stay in one place for awhile. I guess Mom is trying to jump start her life again, going back to where they left off. This is the first time she's ever been in Austria, so I guess she is starting something new as well. She's not wasting any time discovering herself again."

And when we think of wild, perhaps we should ask what there is about ourselves that could now be discovered. Sometimes we ask ourselves what has been enriching about this day.

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Sexism Meets Ageism

In a recent issue of Aging Today, psychologist Doris Bersing writes an interesting article titled The Feminist Dilemma: What to Do when Sexism Meets Ageism. Curious about how women involved in the struggle for equality might become true elders and what role they might embrace in their later years, she begins interviewing older women in this category. She interviews Josephine at an assisted living facility. Josephine had participated in the 1955 bus boycott and later fought for women's equality.

When asked about her current life, Josephine smiled and said that the highlight of her week was talking with the young interns and volunteers who came to the facility to teach classes and spend time with residents. She appreciated the way the young people listened to her stories. "They really seem to want to know, to learn from my past and my experiences," she said. "I tell them about my struggles and conquests."

Josephine and other women like her have made me reflect on what challenges will come next for aging women in a society that remains plagued with ageism and sexism. Her story shows a potential shift of the powerful role that women can play — from liberation to mentoring, a shift that ideally brings meaningful opportunities for aging women to contribute to society.

Elderly women today face personal challenges that trigger some profound questions — among them: What is their role as they age? Reproduction is no longer a goal, nor is raising children. If they had a career, it is in the past or nearly so. Traditional roles for mid-life or older women-such as caring for grandchildren or caregiving for husband or other family members-are still common for women, but these limited identities may be difficult to bear for those who have spent a lifetime trying to make a difference on a larger scale.

Since interviewing Josephine the author has talked with hundreds of women who after fighting for equal rights and against negative stereotypes, find themselves in a society that obsessively worships youth and relegates its elders to second-class stature.

As these active women have aged they have fought the stereotypes and they have found time to reinvent themselves, to use the still formidable energy of their mature years with compassion and wisdom. There is after all, a difference between growing old and growing into an elder. To become an elder takes work and a willingness to struggle continuously for awareness. This struggle for awareness demands a relentless engagement with life and its constantly emerging challenges.

I found Bersing's research to be fascinating. Aging Today is published by the American Society on Aging, The article, which appeared in the November-December 2008 issue, is only available to members of ASA, a group I highly recommend joining. For more information, visit

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Serve America Act Helps with Midlife Transitions

The Serve America Act, which President Barack Obama signed in April is "the most comprehensive national service legislation in our history," reports John Gomperts, president of Civic Ventures. It will "for the first time, make national service accessible and inviting for millions who have finished their midlife careers." The following are excerpts from this report.

"This quiet revolution starts with a simple reality: People in their 50s, 60s and 70s will need to, and often want to, work longer than their parents did. Half of them, according to a recent national survey, want encore careers that combine income, meaning, and work that matters. The Serve America Act recognizes how tough that midlife career transition is by creating a dazzling policy innovation, something akin to internships for boomers.

These "encore fellowships" will provide people 55 and older access to one-year management or leadership positions that will prepare them for jobs in the public and nonprofit sectors. Encore Fellowships recognize that people in this stage of life need bridges and pathways to get from one stage to the next. These fellowships may inspire other institutions, such as universities, community colleges, training facilities, to build a thriving marketplace for midlife retooling.

The Serve America Act makes it much easier for those finishing midlife careers to make the transition from work to continued education by tripling the number of AmeriCorps positions and reserving 10 percent of them for organizations that engage people age 55 and older. Moreover, it provides two big, new incentives for individuals over 55 and for organizations that can use their experience to find each other.

First, midlifers who participate in AmeriCorps programs for a full year and earn an education award will now be able to use that money for their own continued education or, for the first time, to transfer that money, more than $5,000 in tuition, to their children or grandchildren.

Second, people over 55 who provide a minimum of 350 hours of service to an accredited community organization will earn Silver Scholarships, which provide them with a $1,000 education award that can be used for encore career training — or transferred to their children or grandchildren.

Perhaps most important, the Serve America Act will stimulate nonprofit organizations to create high-impact work and service opportunities for those 55 and up, support programs that do enroll older adults, prompt national service programs to recruit more experienced people and encourage the design of programs that take advantage of their talents."

This article was taken from Age in Action, Summer 2009 by Virginia Center on Aging and the Virginia Department for the Aging. For more information:

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Sorry to be Late

Speaking engagements, writing assignments, backpacking trips and personal obligations caused me to miss putting out the May and July issues of this newsletter. Because my last issue was in March this one is a little longer. Rest assured I am still here, committed to living vitally as my 78th birthday approaches. Next excitement after a backpacking trip in August is a ten day wilderness canoe trip on the Allagash Waterway in Maine with Elderhostel. I hope you too enjoy the rest of your summer.

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Emily Kimball
3220A West Grace Street
Richmond, VA 23221-1306
(804) 358-5536
Fax (804) 358-2415