This month marks Older Americans Month, a time set aside to highlight the “perennial contributions of older adults to our nation” (OAM 2016 Website). Yet to paraphrase the legendary words of that legendary older American Tina Turner, what’s “older” got to do with it?
Demographics show us that we live in an aging world. Here in the United States, the 65 plus sector is the fastest growing age group of our overall population. On a worldwide basis, the WHO reports that by 2050 there will be about 2 billion people over age 60, with more people on the planet over 60 than under 18. That is indeed, as Ken Dychtwald coined years ago, a “silver tsunami.”
But what exactly does it mean these days to BE “older?” Looking around at the boomers who are catching that “silver tsunami” wave, we can see that “older” isn’t all the gray hair, rocking chairs and slow decline of previous generations. Instead that aging horizon is full of the potential for new adventures, fit bodies, sharp minds and unexpected experiences.
What a real challenge to those previously held biases as to what it means to hit the second phase of life! Of course this really shouldn’t be surprising, when we consider how the baby boomers have always taken each developmental stage and made it their own. This generation seems determined to match longevity with optimal living, and in doing so they are redefining our cultural norms. “Older” no longer needs to look, feel or act … old.
And what do these new age agers think of cognitive wellness? They recognize that staying sharp is critical to all they want and plan to do. A 2015 AARP Survey found that virtually all adults over 40 understand the importance of maintaining their brains. The real question is how can we make certain that we are giving them exactly what they need to do just that? Adults over 60 are healthier, more connected (a 2014 Pew Trust report found 59% of adults 65+ go online and 77% report using a cell phone), and an important economic force. Are we delivering brain health interventions that reflect the real science (not just the hype) and are challenging and engaging in a way that exceeds their expectations and capture their imaginations? That is a challenge we think about at Total Brain Health each and every day, and one we aim to meet. You see this in our TBH MEMORY Toolkit course, which teaches memory strategies based on the same principles used by memory competition professionals (nothing dumbed down about it), as well as the innovative formats we offer so that busy boomers can squeeze in a quick brain workout using the “In Just 15!” versions of our most popular toolkit classes.
In keeping with this year’s Older Americans Month theme of trailblazing, I’d like to close with some of my favorite signs of this new path being blazed for what “older” looks like:
- Grace and Frankie (Netflix). What happens after decades of marriage when your husband’s business partner turns out to be the man he wants to spend the rest of his life with? Baby boomer icon Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterson star in this groundbreaking series that redefines life after 70, complete with sex, drugs and everything else that comes along with the new older age. A brilliant show, well worth watching (and a great idea for a “watch and discuss” series).
- Desert Trip Indio aka “Oldchella.” The Stones, Dylan, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, The Who … all of a certain age and all performing at a music festival in the desert this October. Brought to you by the organizers of Coachella, this massive event has been nicknamed “Oldchella,” and promises to be, well, mind-blowingly awesome.
- The Next President of the United States. Our next president, no matter who is elected, will be the oldest president since Ronald Reagan. Of those currently still running, all will be in their 70s within their first year in office (Clinton would be 69 at the inauguration, Sanders 75 and Trump 70). It’s probably the most demanding job in the world, requiring a degree of energy, stamina, and sharpness we may not always expect from someone “older.” But that’s what this is all about – changing cultural norms!
Wishing you, your community and clients a remainder of Older Americans Month that exceeds your expectations.