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May 2024: Older Americans Month

May 2024: Older Americans Month

If you follow along with our bi-monthly Connector newsletter, you’ll have read about Kim McRunnel’s, Thrive Associate Director, perspective on aging. In honor of Older Americans Month, we are sharing some of Kim’s story to start rewriting the narrative of aging, and the need to CELEBRATE the privilege and opportunities that come from getting older!

Dear Kim, what did you fear when you realized you were in a new phase of life? I was already noticing the things I wasn’t able to do anymore and feared how much worse it could get. Doing anything physical takes longer than it used to and the recovery from doing it was much longer. I don’t want to ask for help as in my eyes it means I am not capable and independent.

Dear Kim, who do you look up to when it comes to aging? The moments when I think about how much something hurts or that I can’t do something anymore, I think about all the participants at Community Thread who are always there at fitness classes, social events, or playing games.  I hear about their struggles and physical ailments, but they are still there. I have told myself many times, if someone who is 30-40 years older than me can do it, then I need to as well. 

Dear Kim, do you know anyone who is aging gracefully and graciously? My mother! She is always doing “something”. She is more active than I am. She volunteers every week, she is in a demanding leadership role presiding over 30+ Lions Clubs, her yard and gardens always look beautiful, she travels around the world and she never complains. She does more now than she did when she was working.

Dear Kim, what do you feel is an advantage of aging? Wisdom! Learning from the mistakes made earlier in life.  Learning to develop deeper relationships.  You only know what you know.  The wisdom and experience I gain as I grow older has allowed me to love and appreciate the people in my life so much more. Each relationship opens a door and I learn something new. These things I learn give me a better understanding and ability to love.

Dear Kim, how do you think your perspective on aging has shifted as you continue to gain experiences and knowledge?  I have always hated asking for any kind of help.  Since I have had to do it as I age, I learned that asking for help develops better relationships with others and that there is so much more to learn.  I have found people to share more about who they are when I am vulnerable with them.  I have also learned that others have wonderful, unique ideas and perspectives.

Dear Kim, what is something you wish you had known when you were younger as you approached a new season of life? I wish I would have asked more questions and listened more to my grandparents and my dad. I find my family history and past much more intriguing than I did when I was in my 20’s & 30’s. There was also so much I could have learned from them if I had taken the time to.

Dear Kim, how do you feel opportunities change as you’ve gotten older? I believe there are more opportunities now that I had before.  Maybe this is because my focus has shifted or I am looking for them. My life is no longer about raising my children, going to their sporting or school events. Now it is about finding the things that I enjoy doing and choosing the people that I want to be with.

Dear Kim, what excites you about the future? I know that my relationship with my husband will continue to grow deeper and stronger because of where we have been in our lives and what we have learned. We are no longer doing what was expected of us in getting married, having children, getting a job. We are in a place now where we choose to be with each other, we choose careers that we want. I also look forward to having grandchildren – though not for a few years at least! I want to have kids around again, but not have to raise them. To get the joy of being the fun grandparent and send them back home to mom and dad.

Dear Kim, why do you think people fear getting older?  “Ageism” is how we think, feel and act towards others or ourselves based on age and is the only socially acceptable prejudices today.  Our society does not put value on aging.   I constantly hear ads for “anti-aging” this and that.  People say insulting things to others and themselves like “You look good for your age” or “I’m having a senior moment”. Instead let’s try saying, “You look great” period! An article from Penn State titled, From “Senior Moments” to “Wisdom Moments” by Matthew Kaplan, Ph. D. sums up why we shouldn’t use the phrase “Senior Moment” and offers a different perspective. “Aging is not simply forgetting. It’s forgetting and remembering. Where “senior moments” emphasize lapses in memory, “wisdom moments” highlight what we remember. And, it is in these moments, when we seize the opportunity to share our knowledge and make a difference in other people’s lives, that we reaffirm our own sense of hope and humanity.”

Dear Kim, so, should we really fear aging? No! Aging is a privilege and so much better than the alternative. I have found happiness now that I wasn’t capable of before. My creativity and knowledge expands as I age and I am able to share this and contribute to my community more.

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