Experts on aging provide life lessons

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the book “Live Smart After 50: The Experts’ Guide to Life Planning for Uncertain Times” that I co-edited and co-authored with 32 other experts in the field of aging.

It was a passion project for a few members of the Life Planning Network, a national organization of individuals working with, and writing about, older adults. I was president of the organization and saw the book as a vehicle to harness and disseminate all the great thinking our members had done.

I’m not sure any of us predicted a global pandemic as an example of an uncertain time, but the advice in the book is as fresh today as it was 10 years ago.

I looked back at some of our authors and wanted to share their groundbreaking work, as it may be even more relevant to our lives today.

Retirement coach Sara Zeff Geber coined the term “solo ager” to define individuals who are aging alone with little support. Sara and her husband have no children, and she realized that if she lives long enough, she too will be a solo ager, without the support of an adult child to help care for her.

Without a supportive infrastructure, those aging alone risk a lack of care, inadequate care or care that goes against their wishes.

According to a 2016 Pew Research Center report, more than 12 million Americans over the age of 65 were living alone. The percentage of older adults who live alone went from 6% in 1900 to 26% in 2014. Sixty-nine percent of the older adults living alone were women.

Geber dug deep into what solo agers can do to plan for their future. As author of the book “Essential Retirement Planning for Solo-Agers: A Retirement and Aging Roadmap for Single and Childless Adults,” she is considered the nation’s foremost authority on solo aging.

The pandemic hit older adults hard, and even harder for solo agers without a support system to help. Her book is an important resource for many of us who need to think and plan for our future.

Meg Newhouse is the founder of the Life Planning Network and a nationally known pioneer of what’s known as “third-age lifecrafting.” Now she is most focused on legacy, the topic of her recent book, “Legacies of the Heart: Living a Life That Matters.”

She notes that most of us leave behind “footprints” that vanish in a few generations, but these are our own precious, unique legacies.

Newhouse believes we are hard-wired to find meaning in our lives. This became evident to me throughout this pandemic.

Even with stay-home orders and the virus raging, Senior Concerns had hundreds of calls and emails from people wanting to volunteer. As we expanded from delivering 800 meals per week to 4,000, these volunteers were priceless.

They of course received their own personal reward for their actions. I am confident their volunteer footprint will be a lasting part of their own legacy. When the world was in chaos, they rose and took action to help the most vulnerable.

Fred Mandell is a businessman, artist and a highly regarded speaker and teacher. His insights have moved thousands to view their life and work in new ways.

His book, “Becoming a Life Change Artist: 7 Creative Skills to Reinvent Yourself at Any Stage of Life,” calls upon the creative minds of artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Monet and Picasso who embody key strengths that the most creative minds of history shared and that anyone rethinking their future can cultivate to change their life effectively.

Pivoting became the one of the most used descriptors during the pandemic. With closed restaurants selling groceries, meetings moving to Zoom and schools creating virtual programming, COVID forced minds to get creative, embrace uncertainty and take risks.

Chances are there will be more uncertain times ahead. Hopefully, as we return to a bit of normalcy, we can take a page or two from aging experts and begin to rethink our life, our plans, our legacies and our future before the next uncertain time occurs.

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Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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