This year I began the transition from my mid-twenties to my late-twenties and joked to my coworkers that I am getting old. This of course triggered some eye rolls, as it probably should because of course I’m not getting old--I’m getting older. But it was then I realized that while my friends and I joke about getting old I don’t think we have ever really sincerely talked about aging. So I went on a search for answers in the most Millennial way possible: I posted about it on Facebook. I asked my friends “What do you think about when you think about aging?”
I got a wide variety of answers, some didn’t want to think about it and wanted to focus on the present, some didn’t know how to start thinking about it. Others shared practical concerns: things like medical problems and finances.
While it’s valid to focus on the future, the planner in me likes to think ahead. Partly for practical reasons. I can save up for retirement. I can take better care of my health now to try and avoid major health problems down the line. The other reason why I think it’s important to talk about aging is because it makes thinking about it easier. The more we talk about something the less we become afraid of it. While I’m not entirely sure what my older adult self will be like, I know I’ll get there someday.
Talking about aging also bridges the generational divide that we unfortunately see all too often. We are seeing the narrative of aging in pop culture shift. We don’t necessarily see as many stereotypical images of the frail senior, instead we see shows like Steve Harvey’s Little Big Shots: Forever Young. The show showcases some incredibly talented seniors who bring truth to the adage that age is but a number.
Despite the shifting narrative, we unfortunately witness ageism all too often. During some of these tense political times, I often see posts about how the boomers are ruining things for us. But that idea is dangerous and divisive. I also don’t necessarily see it that way. In fact, I think the opposite. I think boomers opened up many doors for us. Where would we be if they didn’t march for civil rights or if they didn’t riot at Stonewall? Where would we be if they didn’t stand up?
Ageist dialogue in our society just proves to us one thing: now, more than ever, it is so important to engage in intergenerational dialogue. While I know it sounds cliche, I do firmly believe that we really can learn so much from our elders. One of my favorite memories I have had working at H.O.M.E. happened during my first month on the job. I was visiting the Pat Crowley House for the first time to see the house and take some pictures of residents and volunteers.
While I was there a group of students from Loyola were visiting with residents and I overheard a part of their conversation that I will never forget. A senior resident shared with the group that she was just trying to figure out who she was. As a 20-something trying to figure out who she was, that moment resonated with me. I realized that despite the age differences, this resident, a 70-something, and I had so much in common.
Here at H.O.M.E. we pride ourselves on our ability to foster intergenerational relationships. The first model and facility of its kind in Chicago, H.O.M.E.'s intergenerational housing model integrates older adults with families and college-aged youth in a cooperative community setting.
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