Laura Newland, executive director, DC Office of Aging and Community Living

Hello everyone. Spring has officially arrived! This month, it’s a great opportunity to start fresh. Whether we are trying to close one chapter of our lives and start over, or we’re just trying new ways to face our daily challenges, what better time is there to start looking at our lives through a new lens? Let’s start by challenging the way we are talking about ourselves, our age, and what it means to age. How often do we hear people say that they are not looking forward to getting older? How often have you said this?

I like to ask people when I’m out in the community to help me define aging. What does it mean to age? What do you want people to know about your experiences? Sometimes it’s difficult answering these questions because you are just living your life. Whether you are helping to raise grandkids, working, travelling, caring for a loved one, volunteering in your community, or picking up a new activity, you are living your life.

All too often we talk about aging when we are faced with a new challenge that we’ve never dealt with before. Or for many, we avoid talking about it altogether. We may ignore signs of illness or criticize ourselves because our bodies are not functioning the ways they once did. We may blame our forgetfulness on age, or ask others to forgive us for moving at our own pace.

When we dismiss our challenges as symptoms of age, we are not only setting the expectation that aging is a challenge, we are accommodating the negativity. If we all are fortunate to age, there may be challenges that come with longevity, but our age is not defined by these challenges. There’s so much more to us and the lives we are living than the challenges we face.

It’s more important than ever to be able to have real conversations about what it means to age in this city and in this country. Aging is living your life. And we all have the right to live meaningful lives. When we limit the way in which we define aging, we risk disconnecting from those who may be uncomfortable talking about it, or those who avoid the topic altogether, and even those who make decisions about programs and services that impact your lives.

If we are able to have these truthful conversations about aging, we are better able to get others to pay attention, and we are better able to advocate for ourselves and how we want our community to respond to our needs as we continue living our lives. Community is about people living their lives together. It’s not about age, and it’s not about facing your obstacles alone.

Let’s shift the conversation from focusing on the challenges of aging, to focusing on the lives you are living and the life you want to live, five, ten, and twenty years from now. Let’s talk about how your community and your government can support you in ensuring you can continue to age well and live well, where you are. I look forward to having these conversations with you in the community. Be well!

Did you like this story?
Would you like to receive articles like this in your inbox? Free!

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *