At age 90 and 7 months, I was entering my car the usual way. Right leg first, leaving all the weight on my left leg for just a fraction of a minute until I’m in. Suddenly my knee gave out and I found myself flat on the parking lot pavement.
Somehow, in a state of shock, I crawled into my car and drove home. I live alone. My wife died 15 years ago. I thought I was okay, no broken bones. But I called the doctor to be safe and set an appointment see him soon.
How am I going to live as I age and body parts don’t work so well?
I’ve always been fiercely independent, and that hasn’t changed now that I’m 90 (that’s 90-and-a-half to you). Throughout the year I walk a mile and a half almost every day in our beautiful Chicago Botanical Garden, which is very near my condo. It is a spiritual and life affirming experience for me. On a 7 AM walk in the Rose Garden I can see the morning dew on the field of Roses. The sunlight shining on each petal, I saw a field of color laced with diamonds. If I cannot walk in the garden what happens to that spiritual part of my life?
The life of my mind and creativity forges ahead.
The very next morning after my fall, I was shaken, but did not want to miss a scheduled call with Lewis Bernstein. Bernstein was a part of Sesame Street for 42 years, first as a researcher and then a producer. We had been introduced by a mutual connection, someone involved in research at Northwestern and now The Erickson Institute, on the impact of technology on child development. Lewis has retired from Sesame Street and is now interested in Boomers and grandparents—both of which he is. We told him about our Technology Tourism idea to “enter your Grandchild’s tech world.” After a half hour chat he said, ok, send me your stuff. In turn, we connected him to a Kenissa conference next month that is exploring Jewish boomer engagement, among other topics.
Thoughts keep flowing. One contact leads to another. I follow them where they go to build new ideas and programs that will empower grandparents and help them teach and learn with their grandchildren.
Stigma around Aging Says We Have No More to Contribute. It’s time to De-stigmatize.
The knee is not working so well. Surgery? I pray not at age 90. My leg may have given-out, but the brain is on fire! New ideas and aspirations come to me all the time. Yet as I face physical issues how do I continue to bring spirituality and dignity to my life?
The key way for me is my family-friends and people I can employ who believe in me and my work. People who can hear my ideas and help me connect—literally in the digital world, and also with people who are doing related work. De-stigmatizing aging is about realizing that people have something to contribute, no matter their age.
What’s most important for me is my belief in my passion, creatively and commitment to myself and what I believe in. It’s what I had 72 years ago when I got my first job as a camp counselor at Camp Chi. It’s what made me successful as a General Director of the JCC’s. And it’s the same sensation that makes me excited to get up every day and create new programs that inspire grandparents to use their passion, creativity and commitment to transform their families.