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A Year for Change (Part 1): Dare It!


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In an earlier post, we spoke about how turning 80 can be more fearsome than skydiving. But there is a cure for the fear of aging: trying something new (and sometimes far-fetched!) often — such as once a day for an entire year.

Reverse Mortgage NewsThat’s what investigative reporter Lu Ann Cahn did in her mid-fifties. Already an award-winning journalist who had survived two life-threatening illnesses, successfully raised a child, and been happily married for a quarter century, she nevertheless felt stuck, frustrated, in the doldrums in midlife.

Her tech-savvy 23-year-old daughter Alexa suggested her mom start a blog. Cahn asked her daughter what a blog was. Then she thought, perhaps she could try something new each week for a year and write about it. Alexa upped the ante: “Try something new every day!”

So 2010 began with 53-year-old Cahn plunging into the frigid Atlantic on New Year’s Day with a local Polar Bear Club, overcoming a lifelong fear of the ocean and launching a laugh-out-loud year of Firsts that eventually became her book, I Dare Me. And while she decided not to risk bungee jumping, her Firsts did include rappelling into an underground cave, learning to surf and Hula-Hoop (not at the same time), and even spending a day wheelchair-bound to better understand what life is like for the differently abled.

They weren’t all physically hair-raising adventures, however. Many of Cahn’s Firsts are activities most people from midlife to seniors can attempt in order to rekindle their energy and enthusiasm for life — and by “rekindle”, we’re not referring to an e-reader!

Here are some of Cahn’s tamer Firsts, in the order she attempted them:

1) Read every word in the newspaper

2) Spend a day without looking in a mirror

3) Analyze a dream

4) Learn the alphabet backwards (great for activating dormant senior brain cells!)

5) Don’t say anything negative all day

6) Reconcile a longtime family issue

7) Keep the car clean

8) Day without coffee

9) Learn to tell a joke

10) Talk to a stranger

11) Go back to school (in the midst of this, Cahn enrolled for her Master’s degree — and says the hardest part was taking the GRE — graduate record exam)

12) Pay a stranger’s toll

13) Go to the movies solo

14) Take a knitting lesson

15) Dance in the kitchen

16) Sing with a community choir

17) Invite neighbors to dinner (how many people don’t even know the people they’ve lived next door to for 30 years?)

18) Meditate for 20 minutes

19) Bake a flourless chocolate torte

20) Plant a potted herb garden (i.e., for the windowsill)

21) Learn Twitter

22) Go to the opera

23) Swing on a trapeze (OK, this might be ill-advised for those 80+ — then again, Shirley Jones was preparing to skydive…)

24) Give out free hugs

25) Take a golf lesson

26) March in a parade

27) Attend a Japanese tea ceremony

28) Learn sign language

29) Taste 18 flavors of ice cream

30) Join the Venice Beach drum circle (Cahn was visiting California)

31) Teach her mother to Skype

32) Pose for a street artist

33) Serve dinner at a homeless shelter

34) Eat raw (food, that is)

35) Participate in a Secret Santa contest

Remember, this is less than a tenth of the total (365) — and almost all are feasible for a senior in reasonably good health to attempt. Plus, there are scientific benefits to the more “altruistic” Firsts: researcher Stephanie Brown, PhD at the University of Michigan, found seniors who helped friends, relatives, and neighbors in some way lived longer over a five-year period than those who didn’t provide any support to others.

Perhaps you’ll want to share this list with your reverse mortgage clients and prospects, or try a few yourself. The book is a hoot. Cahn’s website provides additional information.

Dare yourself, other reverse mortgage professionals, your family, friends, coworkers and strangers to take up the challenge. Some of the more intriguing Firsts (improvisational dance class, juggling, glassblowing, or designing a necklace) will provide a cerebral workout that’s sure to reboot and recharge your life, as they did for Cahn.


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  1. Hmmmmmmm. Appropriate for older age LO’s too???

  2. I appreciate your focus on the old duffers. As an LO, I’m one of them. Your positive focus on turning 80 today goes on my handout to help my clients age peacefully (if that’s even possible). Thanks for your positive focus in my life.

  3. Warren,

    Thank you so much for this feedback. It’s surprising how many LOs are themselves well into “seniorhood”. Aging isn’t what it used to be, and neither are we!

    Please let us know what “Dares” you try — and how they go over with your clients 🙂

  4. You either grow or you die! It’s that simple. I like all these ideas to keep our seniors young. Thank you for all the suggestions. Here is one more:

    Growing older makes mobility the number one priority and as I am pushing seventy myself my father’s advice increases in urgency. He was an old, crusty Swiss Country Doctor who healed many patients with the free consultation: Eat less and walk more!

    I took it to heart and became instrumental in organizing “Boots ‘n Beer – a drinking club with a hiking problem!” ~ http://www.bootsnbeer.com

    How does it go over with seniors? Many have joined! Do you want to build a chapter in your area? Let me know. I can help.

    Happy Trails and Happy 4th of July!

  5. Hi Andreas,

    Yes, exercise is key! At least 4 of the suggested activities in the above list are overtly physical, and there are many more in the book, but/and, I wanted to be sure to include “Firsts” almost any senior, even the very elderly, could safely attempt.

    Your club sounds hilarious and fun. Good on you for taking the initiative!

    Happy, safe holiday and blessings,

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