Building a Community that Ages Well
By Sally Anderson, Executive Director,
Earlier this month, Community Thread hosted a lively discussion about what it means to age. The Aging with Gusto workshop was attended by 40 people who examined their own views of aging and became ambassadors for spreading the word about the dangers of ageism and how it affects us all.
The workshop was facilitated by the Vital Aging Network (VAN). This organization encourages older adults to challenge stereotypes about aging and heighten appreciation for the capacity and contribution of people of all ages.
According to Julie Roles, VAN program director, “stereotypes about aging interfere with our true experience of aging, and older adults can be complicit if they buy into the stereotypes.” It starts with our awareness: how are we thinking about our own aging experience? For example is our perspective positive (“I can learn this new thing”) or negative (“I am too old to learn this and besides, I have earned the right to refuse to learn something new”). Julie’s advice: “be aware of who you are and the attitude that you present to the world.”
The Vital Aging Network has conducted about 30 Aging with Gusto workshops across the state. At the end of the workshop, The Community Thread participants had these words of wisdom: “Staying flexible in mind and body is the key to aging well” and “don’t forget that growing older is a privilege that may be denied.” My personal favorite was “age is a state of mind.”
Our experience of aging can be different than the stereotypes if we embrace the contributors to aging well:
- Doing things that you find satisfying or fulfilling
- Striving to maximize physical, mental and emotional health
- Continuing to learn new things and challenge yourself
- Having choice and control over decisions that affect your life
- Being connected to family, friends and a broader community
- Having a sense of purpose that contributes to something bigger than yourself
At Community Thread, we offer opportunities for older adults to stay active, get connected to others and give back through meaningful volunteer opportunities. We also support initiatives that build community to support aging well. Now with Vital Aging Network’s leadership, our community can create sustainable change that will increase wellness in Washington County.
To help our community take the next step toward improved health and well-being, the Vital Aging Network is launching Wellness 50+. This community-based initiative aims to identify and recruit citizen teams to implement projects that will enable older adults to make changes in attitudes and practices likely to contribute to better health outcomes.