Americans are living longer. One hundred years ago, average life expectancy for both women and men was 52 years; fifty years ago, when we were young pups, it was 70.3 years; and today it is the highest ever at 78.8 years.
But what does this mean for society, our institutions and for us? Robert Butler, the late physician and gerontologist, described the ramifications of these demographic changes in his book The Longevity Revolution. He points out that as a society we are still operating with many of the same social policies and institutions that were developed to address the demographic landscape of fifty to a hundred years ago.
One way this is illustrated is how society has defined three different stages of human development: childhood, adolescence and adulthood. We are expected to act a certain way during these life stages and if not the aberrant behavior is named - such as the Peter Pan syndrome used to identify an adult who never wants to grow up.
Now with this longevity revolution underway, several leaders in the field of aging are suggesting there now needs to be another stage in life to reflect longer life expectancy and additional life experiences.
Bill Thomas, geriatrician and international authority on geriatric medicine, is one of those leaders. He calls for reimagining the lifecycle, to include a stage of life called “Elderhood”, which forgoes the values and attitudes of adulthood which are focused on youthful behavior and activities; and instead reflects the ongoing strengths, abilities and wisdom of the growing older population. A stage of life when it’s okay to take life a little bit slower, to take time to reflect and share the wisdom gained over the years; to engage in those unfulfilled pursuits; and to connect more with loved ones and the community you live in. A stage of life “that can be rich, real, deep and meaningful” beyond adulthood - when you can really live.
Whether or not you have grown into “Elderhood”, you have an opportunity to share your stories and life wisdom at the Center through the Oral History Project created by students from the Wahtonka Community School. Students will interview you about your life experiences on Tuesdays at 1:00. With your permission, the conversations are recorded and archived at the community school’s library. There has been very positive feedback from the folks who have already been interviewed; and from the students who have learned life lessons from the rich history they have heard. To share your story, call the Center at 541-296-4788.
I know, Bingo is “just to keep grandma off the streets”, but playing bingo is fun for all ages. And during the month of April, the Center’s Saturday Night Bingo, will be even more exciting with a second chance on all games except the early birds and the 50/50 game. During the evening you will have thirty chances to win cash prizes totaling over $1100. And on April 9th the payout for a blackout in 55 numbers is an additional $850. Games start at 6:00.
Housing is one of the necessities of life. At 11:00 on April 12th, Dave Peters, from the Housing Resource Center, will be discussing the housing options available to older adults including home repair loans and foreclosure counseling.
For the Center’s Tuesday Night Music on April 12th, Martin and Friends will be playing for your listening and dancing enjoyment. Doors open at 6:00, music starts at 7:00, and everyone is welcome. Donations are appreciated.
The actor who played the colorful sidekick in TV westerns including forty-four starring Roy Rogers was Gabby Hayes. (The winner of a quilt raffle ticket is Jerry Phillips who saw Gabby as the Grand Marshall of the Cheyenne Frontier Days parade in 1947.)
The OSU Women’s Basketball team’s incredible season reminded me how women’s basketball has changed since the 50’s. At that time women’s basketball players couldn’t go past mid-court and couldn’t dribble more than three bounces – it would be too strenuous! For this week’s “Remember When” question, instead of five players, how many players were on a side in women’s basketball during the 50’s? Email your answer to email@example.com, leave a message at 541-296-4788 or mail it with a picture of Carol Menken, OSU basketball star from 1979 – 1981.
Well, it’s been another week trying to remember the lessons I’ve learned. Until we meet again, although you can’t ignore the everyday difficulties, don’t let them govern your life.
“The more you know yourself, the more patience you have for what you see in others.” Erik Erikson