Encore careers expert Marc Freedman, author of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife, says life enrichment and retooling for the next life stage should be aging’s cornerstone.
The oldest Baby Boomers turned 65 in 2011, and this silver tsunami continues until 2029. Someone turning 65 today can expect to live an additional 19.3 years, and in a recent Centers for Disease Control study, nearly 70 percent said they want to continue working in order to stay active and involved. Seniors also say it’s “very important” to them to leave the world a better place.
In an assisted living environment, life enrichment can take the form of community contributions that add meaning and purpose to later life. While the majority of older people in good health don’t want to return to the workplace on a full-time basis, they crave the social interaction the work world affords — and many would also like to put a lifetime of experience and knowledge to good use.
Becoming a Creativity Maven
Is your senior loved one a maven? According to Wikipedia, a maven is “a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others”.
This term might best describe seniors who are living large, radiating their passion in the world. Living passionately doesn’t necessarily look appreciably different from living one’s life day to day; the distinction is apparent when we encounter such individuals, who seem to glow with purpose — and the way they speak reflects who they are on the inside.
How does one become a maven?
Ariel Lexina Adams, the creator of Ageless Pizazz, says aging creatively “is an attitude that involves changing our stories, so that what may at first appear negative can be turned around mentally, and potentially physically.”
Grief therapist Michelle Peticolas, PhD, in conversation with Adams, says, “To see aging as an adventure, start by making a list of what you like to do, what you’re passionate about. Take a risk. Women, especially, are often used to deferring to others. We need to learn how to say what we want. There isn’t any right choice; what matters is choosing.
“If you don’t really know what you enjoy, do the exercise with a companion who can reflect back to you, and let you know when something causes you to light up.”
The beauty of creative aging is that one can begin at any age or life stage; we are always “aging”, says Peticolas.
6 Key Life Enrichment Benefits of Assisted Living
Here at The Kensington White Plains, life enrichment is the cornerstone of what we do. Our promise — to love and care for your family as we do our own — takes shape as an ever-changing calendar of events and activities that can keep our assisted living residents engaged seven days a week, from morning until evening.
Life enrichment means developing and maintaining a strong quality of life: mentally, emotionally, socially, physically, and spiritually. To meet this objective, our programs and activities are resident-driven, senior-centric, and diverse.
Our team draws from a wide range of resident interests in an effort to appeal to everyone. We celebrate the uniqueness of each of the special senior personalities among us.
Life enrichment within an assisted living community such as The Kensington White Plains benefits seniors and their families by:
- Reducing the risk of dementia. Social participation and connection keeps seniors mentally stimulated, which helps maintain cognitive abilities and stave off mental decline.
- Promoting physical health and well being. Physical inactivity has been linked to a wide range of health concerns, from high blood pressure and excess body fat to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Bonus: movement helps maintain muscle tone, which benefits every aspect of senior functioning and well being.
- Preventing social isolation. Feeling disconnected and lonely are leading causes of early mortality, heart disease and obesity among seniors.
- Keeping seniors technologically current. You might not think knowing how to Skype or use Facebook would be that important for seniors in an assisted living community. However, this is a key component for keeping your loved one active and engaged. Not only does learning a new skill light up the brain and help sharpen memory, but it’s also an ideal way for senior residents to keep in touch with family members — and perhaps even show off their new dance moves from one of our life enrichment classes!
- Supporting nutritional goals. Metabolism, digestion, appetite and our sense of taste and smell all tend to diminish with age, which can make eating well a challenge, even for a palate-pleasing, professionally trained senior chef. Keeping seniors active promotes appetite, and dining in a community creates a sense of belonging that encourages residents to enjoy the healthful, appetizing menu artfully displayed at each meal.
- Helps residents transform the “story” of aging. Finally, the spiritual dimension is a key element of a successful life enrichment program, and this does not necessarily imply a religious context. Transforming the story of aging entails supporting assisted living residents to welcome this next chapter in their lives, and to “write a new script” for this life stage.
Ron Pevny, the founder of the Center for Conscious Eldering, says when a senior embraces elderhood, they start to feel lighter in heart and body, “as you imagine the latter years of your life filled with passion, purpose, and vitality.” In essence, Pevny is advocating a Hero’s Journey for this life stage, one that may or may not involve an encore career per Marc Freedman, but is definitely a rite of passage: a time of harvest, when the joy and wisdom of a lifetime can be translated into service and meaning for family and community.
Pevny’s positive prescription echoes that of septuagenarian philosopher Charles D. Hayes, whose September University is not a school, but a state of mind: a vision of retirement that entails “sifting through a half-century or more of experience, sorting those things that are truly important from those that aren’t, and finding ways to pass on that wisdom.”
We’re looking forward to welcoming you to The Kensington White Plains, and discovering how we can best support you in creating the most meaningful, engaged years of your life now.