Jan Hively earned her doctorate at 69, writing her dissertation on “Productive Aging in Rural Communities.” Ever since, she’s focused on raising awareness about new opportunities and challenges for older adults. Hively connects people and ideas in several thriving networks that support lifework planning and positive aging, including the Vital Aging Network, ArtSage (which provides training programs and community consulting on the emerging hybrid field of arts and aging), SHIFT: Navigating Midlife Transitions and a new global program innovations exchange, the Pass It On Network. She teaches and consults internationally, and has been honored repeatedly for her groundbreaking work in positive aging.
Not your typical octogenarian. Then again, perhaps Hively typifies the generations to come. In France, a group calling itself “Octoplus” (men and women over 80) meets regularly to envision the future they want to animate, with a strong focus on meaning. This is also useful information for reverse mortgage professionals on this side of the Atlantic.
Hively says, “Everywhere, the time is ripe for elders to step up and change the culture of aging worldwide, guiding the shift from a needs-based, consumer society to a collaborative society, an intergenerational society in which people throughout life have responsibilities to share their strength to help themselves, to help each other and to help their communities. The United Kingdom and Australia are ahead of the game, with programs of older and younger people working together, in technology especially.
“Our goal is to think in a very holistic manner about making sure we are fully aware of what is coming down the pike: the environmental and economic shift that is occurring, and all of those dimensions of wellness we must exercise to be at our best.
“There is no substitute for us being role models who can walk the talk and speak for ourselves, appreciating ‘old’ all the way through the last breath.”
It’s never too late to bloom agrees Dan Liss, who observes that “aging” is also a matter of perspective. He writes, “I have talked to people in their sixties and seventies who have finally decided to invest some time and energy into things they have been thinking about for a long time, and I have talked to people who are in their late twenties or early thirties who regret having let time slip by without doing something that they have had on their mind for years.
“Coming unbound, unwound, like a spring coiled tightly, that second wind we get when we finally break loose is refreshing. Some people are late bloomers because it took them a while to get their courage up, or until they got fed up with whatever else they were doing, and now everything changes, everything opens up.”
As we discussed last month, retirees and Millennials go together like pie à la mode, as this New York Times piece on seniors who serve their communities makes clear. Mature adults who’ve had high-powered careers find meaning, purpose and satisfaction mentoring students in “how to navigate life” — and for many, this includes a strong focus on the arts. What engages at one end of the life spectrum holds equal appeal at the other end, as Hively and her team have discovered. This can be helpful for reverse mortgage professionals to bear in mind when forming relationships with the emerging older population. Before you talk finances, you might want to ask about art!
Another inspirational concept is the Speaking Exchange, a cross-generational experiment that teams students in Brazil who want to practice their English with retirement community residents in Chicago, who are eager to talk with new people. The exchanges take place via computer video (Skype and similar platforms) and are incredibly touching. What a fabulous way for elders to be of service and pass along their wisdom, as virtual grandparents performing a valuable service and receiving an invaluable gift in return.