Strength, Purpose and Belonging to a Community

Today, I wanted to share with you a philosophy about aging that I first heard about 6 months ago and it has stuck with me.  Last Fall, at a conference I attended Dr. Bill Thomas spoke and his talk resonated with me.  He explained that the concept of aging involved ‘reserved capacity’.  Really one main difference between young and old is how much ‘reserve capacity’ we have.  As we age, we typically loose our reserves, they deplete, we use them up over the years and maybe we aren’t doing as much as we can to ‘constantly build them up’.  

He challenged anyone who worked in the Aging space to do everything we could to help ‘build up’ that capacity in our aging population.  He scolded those in the audience (and there were some…) who ran businesses that took advantage of encouraging that decline as we age…it really made me think and look around in more depth about how we (society in general) treat our elders.  

Dr. Bill went on the explain that what we all need (young, middle age and old) is Strength, Purpose and Community…. Strength, Purpose and Community. Take a moment and think about that.  Young children, middle age adults and the oldest old, what makes us ALL thrive?

Strength, whether that be physical, mental, emotional, any type, the stronger we are the better we manage, the more capacity we have.  

Purpose, what is our daily purpose in our lives, what makes us get out of bed each morning and get on with our days.  Who needs us, who counts on us to show up, and why? How great does it feel to know that you made a difference in the life of another that day?  As we age do we often loose or deplete our strong sense of purpose in life, our sense of contribution to society? Is this triggered by retirement? How can we continue to give our seniors more purpose, a greater sense of why we need them to be involved and contributing to our towns and cities. We often lean on them less as they age when in fact they have the ability to do much more.

Finally, Community.  What can we all being doing to connect and enhance seniors in our communities?  What is the role of seniors in making our communities great? Making them stronger, greener, safer, closer knit? This one excites me because I have young children and I often see the magical moments in my community with multigenerational projects and interactions, busy stressed out working parents needing the support of elderly neighbours and friends who may have a little more time to do the things we can’t. 

Give this some thought as you move into your weekend.  Building up everyone in our lives, making them stronger, giving them a greater sense of purpose, needing them, and strengthening our communities all at the same time.  What makes young child, teenager or middle aged adult tick is really no different in my mind then what makes a 90 year old thrive. Let’s get on with it!