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Midlands Voices: You’re never too old to set another goal

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The aging process can evoke concern, dread, and even outright avoidance through various beauty products and surgeries. Yet, the opportunities and potential of the aging experience is unlimited if we only take the time to dream of how we are called to make a difference in the world.

Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church has dedicated the last Sunday of each July to honor older adults and grandparents. The theme for this year, which falls on July 24, is based on Psalm 92:15 — “In old age they will still bear fruit.” A refreshing way of thinking about aging in new ways.

This theme is a noble pursuit during a pivotal point in history where there are more people over 65 than under 5 in the world. We are blessed with an abundance of older adults when we need them most. And despite the COVID curse of portraying older adults as sick and frail, there are countless older adults who can and do contribute — well into their advanced years in good health and happiness. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “you’re never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

Current research suggests that older people who give of themselves, find a greater sense of meaning and purpose that contributes to their overall well-being. The motivation to care for oneself is prompted by a reason to get up in the morning. From better physical and cognitive health to a greater appreciation of life, sharing of gifts and talents as we age makes a difference in our own lives and those of others.

There are wonderful examples of aging adults who are giving of themselves in many ways in our communities. Examples include volunteer home delivered meals drivers, senior companion and foster grandparent volunteers, along with part-time and full-time employees in retail, business, and health care.

This is in addition to the older neighbor who shares his or her tips on how to grow tomatoes, crochets a prayer blanket for a newly baptized baby, or demonstrates the GOAT (greatest of all time) skills of knowing how to fix a corn crib in disrepair.

Other exemplars on a global scale include the grandmother/friendship benches in Zimbabwe whereby older adults support younger adults in achieving mental wellness through a compassionate and understanding presence.

And the familiar efforts of grandparents across the globe who care for children while parents work, serve as positive role models for younger children. These examples are a reminder anything is possible as we age.

This year’s theme of bearing fruit in old age challenges all of us, young and old alike, to find ways to encourage and engage older adults to give of their wisdom and talents in places that are needed most.

A life lived through the rear-view mirror is limited by the past. A life lived with a broader/windshield view presents opportunities to make a difference when it is needed most. And many would agree — the need for older adults to share their wisdom with the world is needed more than ever.

OWH Midlands Voices June 2022

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Julie Masters, Ph.D., is a professor and holds the Terry Haney Chair of Gerontology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. This article reflects the views of the author and is not necessarily representative of the views of UNO.

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