I am blessed to remember four sets of my grandparents. I grew up around the corner from my Dad’s parents. When my mom left home for two years to pursue a Master’s degree, Grandpa and Grandma Jones became integral in ensuring my younger brother and I ate nutritiously, did our homework and stayed out of trouble. I spent many hours in my Grandma’s kitchen playing cards, eating cookies and listening to stories about my aunts and uncles when they were small.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve watched my grandparents one by one leave this world. My parents are now grandparents, and nothing lights them up as much as time with my nephew. They too have aged, and I’ve begun to see small signs of frailty appear. My Dad fought a winning battle with cancer last year, which drained him of strength and spirit. My Mom, the most outgoing member of our clan, fell on her decent of Mt. Kilimanjaro a couple of years ago, and struggles with chronic discomfort. I’m still very fortunate, as I’ve begun to see more of my friends and cousins strain to adjust their lives to the needs of aging parents.
My role as a Program Manager at AARP Foundation, AARP’s charitable affiliate, probably makes me more aware of this steady march forward. But I’ve begun to reflect upon and at times question the way that we as a society manage the aging process and treat those who are growing older. In many ways there’s probably never been a more exciting time to grow old, people are staying healthy longer, and greater opportunity exists for older adults to pursue their passions and find meaning in their lives as they age. However, with the effects of the recession on retirement funds, a changing health care landscape in the US, and biases against older people within mainstream society, there is significant reason to view aging with mixed feelings.
I hope to use this blog as an opportunity to explore the experience of aging in the world today. I will examine mechanisms for supporting older adults both in the US and elsewhere, and I will discuss different views on the aging process. I hope that through this activity we will be able to elevate the discussion of aging and increase resources available to encourage meaningful living for people as they grow older.