Senior Moments from H.O.M.E.

Reaping the Gift of Longevity

Posted by Gail Schechter on Dec 23, 2019 9:15:00 AM

Reaping the Gift of Longevity


Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

-- Mary Oliver


I sat with Constance last week at H.O.M.E.’s holiday party at Nathalie Salmon House. Over the clatter of conversation, plasticware, and bingo, she told me she and her neighbors would love to hold a dress-up formal ball right there in the Community Room. For a split second I thought: aren’t balls about flaunting the notion that “you’re young only once”? Just as quickly, I answered my own question with another question: Why not? We are beautiful at every age and we all want to step out of the ordinary casualness of daily living to do something fun and affirming.

The Washington Post recently publicized a new initiative out of the Stanford Center on Longevity that calls for “a major redesign of life.” Funded in part by the Rockefeller Foundation, this initiative takes into account that midlife and old age have become much longer phases in our lives. But our social timelines today have not kept pace, with formal education generally ending in our twenties and retirement pushed back either by necessity or choice.

At the same time, life expectancy is vastly different due to racial segregation and discrimination. As Helene Gayle, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, recently pointed out in Crain’s Chicago Business, there’s a yawning thirty-year age gap between a Streeterville resident (90) and Englewood (60). We need to ensure that everyone “reaps the benefit of longevity” in Stanford’s proposed New Map of Life.

We at H.O.M.E. are proud to be ahead of the curve in walking the talk of lifelong learning and living a life that is economically sustainable, where no senior, regardless of race or income, has to worry about outliving their means.

Central to H.O.M.E.’s philosophy is an intergenerational way of life. Stanford must have been reading H.O.M.E.’s playbook when it launched this initiative last year. This is from their inaugural “white paper”:

Intergenerational engagement and partnerships are key to realizing the opportunities of longevity. The complexity of changes needed to achieve high-quality longer lives requires overcoming age segregation and fostering more intergenerational connectedness. Multigenerational housing will offer new avenues for family members of all ages to remain healthier, more socially engaged and financially secure. Classrooms that include both young and older students can spark creative and critical thinking. And as employees stay in the workplace longer, more work will be done by multigenerational teams, which in some cases are likely to be more productive. Research is needed to identify ways in which intergenerational partnerships can improve quality of life over the course of century-long lives.

Constance suggested we hang a mirrored disco ball from the ceiling for the “formal.” And why not? When you think about it, that ball is also a symbol of the different facets of our lives, revolving like the planet and celebrating ourselves separately and together.   

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