Aging Well – What Does It Mean to Be With It?

By on May 11, 2017
Aging Well - What Does It Mean to Be With It?

Staying Engaged, Active, and Connected, at Any Age

By Roberto Muñiz –

What does it look like to be with it? An 86-year-old literature professor writing his latest book about Shakespeare? A 90-year-old music legend turning off the microphones at Radio City Music Hall to show his unaccompanied voice can fill the theater? A 94-year-old scientist who’s just filed a patent for a new kind of battery that might revolutionize electric cars? A 100-year-old architect who continues to make his signature stamp felt across museums, office towers, and cultural centers around the world? Harold Bloom, Tony Bennett, John Goodenough, I.M. Pei, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (aka, the Notorious RBG) are five older people who are not slowing down and continuing to do some of their best work. And they’re not alone.

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A recent nationwide survey conducted by Parker about changing perceptions around aging in America found that more than half of those surveyed (62%) believe that 80 is not too old to serve in government, run a marathon, be CEO of a Fortune 500 company, teach a class, or marry your high-school sweet heart. Moreover, 78% of Americans do not consider people in their 50s and 60s to be “old.” And the same survey found a vast majority of Americans (71%) do not fear or worry about aging very much or at all.

While these findings might come as something of a surprise to a youth-obsessed popular culture, they echo what many of us feel ourselves and see around us every day. At Parker, the New Jersey-based aging services organization I’ve lead for nearly 20 years as president and CEO, we realized we’ve known this truth for years.

Seniors are staying more vibrant, active, and connected well into their seventies, eighties, nineties, and beyond, and society is beginning to embrace that fact. As our organization approached its 110th anniversary this year, we sought to communicate this changing reality for today’s seniors, seeks to upend outdated cultural notions about aging in America, and challenges all of us to make aging part of life.

Inspired by our residents, participants, colleagues, partners, the community, and the world-at-large we thought: why don’t we collect examples of people at any age who are defying stereotypes and misconceptions about aging just by being themselves? Individually and collectively, these examples prove anti-aging stereotypes wrong by people just being themselves. They need no accompanying argument or justification.

Our response is a campaign, an ever-expanding album, of these umpteen—and more—examples that can’t help but change any negative cultural bias or misconception about aging. We call it #WithIt.

To help us communicate the social awareness message about our new campaign, we sought to identify public figures—like the illustrious figures referenced above—who exemplify what being WithIt is all about. We also found inspiration in our very own dining rooms, halls, and social areas. Like Kenneth “The Wolfman,” one of our residents who doubles as the DJ-like voice behind our morning announcements. Or Raquel and her granddaughter, also named Raquel, who began as volunteers at Parker Landing Lane and today see each other each day as resident and employee. Or Anita, a familiar figure around our fitness and exercise center whose morning yoga routine keeps the rest of her day in balance.

These real-life residents, participants, and employees exemplify what it means to be WithIt at any age—active, vibrant, and connected. That’s the reality in America today for many seniors—a demographic 50 million strong that’s growing in size and cultural and economic strength each year. It’s time for the rest of society to catch up. We hope you’ll be as moved and motivated by these people as we are. We also hope you’ll share your own #WithIt examples (via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, @Parkerlifeorg), and connect with us!

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—Roberto Muñiz is President and CEO of Parker, is a nonprofit, New Jersey-based aging services organization with over 100 years’ experience, that is committed to making aging part of life

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Aging Well – What Does It Mean to Be With It?