There’s a new vision of aging emerging.
We are living longer, healthier lives than previous generations. Many people are retiring later in life – or not at all. They are working part-time and launching second careers; they are pursuing advanced training and education; and they are playing active roles in caregiving and raising their families.
Communities are better off for their efforts.
Older adults are advancing social causes, finding new purpose in volunteer efforts, hobbies or new interests, and launching business ventures decades past what was once considered traditional retirement age.
In fact, 26 percent of all new business start-ups are created by older adults – with a 70 percent success rate.
They’re making the most of what Age Wave co-founder Maddy Dychtwald, a leading expert on aging and demographic trends, describes as the “longevity bonus,” the 30 years added to people’s lifespans in the past century.
The old aging “playbook” of work until 65, retire, and then sit on the sidelines of life for the next two or three decades, is something many of today’s older adults are not willing to do.
Seniors are staying in – or getting back into – the game.
For some, staying engaged is a matter of financial need. With longer life can come greater expenses. The need for income continues.
For others, it’s a matter of a desire to find purpose or fulfillment. Still others feel a call to give back to the community.
Staying engaged is also good for the mind and body.
Studies show that a high level of engagement is directly linked to overall physical and mental well-being among older adults.
A study by the Sloan Center on Aging and Work showed older adults who reported being highly engaged – as opposed to just “involved” or “not involved” – in paid work, volunteering or education had significantly higher well-being scores than their peers who were relatively unengaged. This difference was widest in the 65-and-older age group.
Today’s older adults have much to offer in terms of talent, energy and social contributions. Finding ways to reach and capitalize on this potential has positive outcomes for older adults and for society as a whole.
Local momentum to build on this potential spurred the launch of the Campus for Creative Aging.
Spearheaded by the Area Agency on Aging and joined by a growing network of like-minded businesses, organizations and individuals, the initiative seeks to foster a new vision of aging in Southwest Michigan – one that promises rich opportunities for fulfillment across the lifespan and spurs a movement that ensures older adults are valued and seen as vital resources in their communities.
Helping older adults write their own playbook for aging well and making the most of their “longevity bonus” years is a key theme of the campus, whether they are already engaged or have been sitting on the sidelines for some time.
Current programs include thought-provoking discussion groups, engaging workshops on navigating change using improvisational skills, brain health, technology classes, an Aging Mastery Program, the Sounds Good Choir, life enrichment courses, a resource hub of information, volunteer opportunities and more.
To build momentum across the tri-county area, the campus collaborates with like-minded organizations to expand program offerings regionwide.
The Campus for Creative Aging is located at 2920 Lakeview Ave., in St. Joseph in the former Honor Credit Union building. The newly renovated space features a state-of-the art computer technology lab, resource hub, numerous class and community meeting rooms, volunteer and employment programs and much more.
An open house is scheduled for 3:30-5:30 p.m. Monday with a ribbon cutting at 3:30 p.m., and formal remarks at 4:30 p.m.
Come see this new community resource and, most importantly, catch a new vision of aging – one filled with creativity, purpose, growth and learning.
Christine Vanlandingham is chief operating officer of Region IV Area Agency on Aging in Southwest Michigan. Questions on age or independence services? Call the Info-Line for Aging & Disability at 800-654-2810 or visit www.areaagencyonaging.org. The Generations column appears each Sunday in The Herald-Palladium.