If you’re not feeling good about your latest birthday, read Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life at Every Age by Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, with Boe Workman. According to Jenkins, society’s picture of aging is out of sync with reality. While the media, advertisers and popular culture stress maintaining youth, we need to embrace our age with pride.
Jenkins offers inspirational examples: There’s Doreetha Daniels, who earned an associate degree at 99. There’s Ernestine Shepherd, a bodybuilder, who became “determined, dedicated and disciplined to be fit” at age 56. She is now going strong at 79. Jenkins writes, “Owning our age opens up new possibilities for leading more purposeful and fulfilling lives as we get older. . . . We can discover the real possibilities life has to offer.” And what we offer as the over 50s is “untapped wisdom, talent, and experience to solve our nation’s problems and make this world a better place.”
What the older generation needs to do, according to Jenkins, is shift the emphasis from physical and mental diminishment to physical and mental fitness. From focusing on treatment to focusing on disease prevention, health promotion and well being. She offers strategies for brain health and lists the best cities for successful aging, cities that include safe, affordable, convenient environments with opportunities for work and access to transportation. She suggests options for living for those who can no longer manage independently.
As older workers, we offer more pluses than negatives. With adaptations for our physical conditions (for instance, allowing chairs instead of being forced to stand) we can continue as productive workers. Some companies offer “phased retirement,” reduced hours or rehiring for peak times, in order to keep experienced older workers.
The back of the book includes a section on resources along with notes. And there are 17 valuable pages titled “Take Action” to help you evaluate where you are in thinking about the aging process. Prompts guide you in looking back and then looking forward, covering everything from health care to finances and everyday choices. You’ll evaluate what makes you feel fulfilled in light of the opportunities around you. I wish I had read this book 20 years earlier so that I would have been encouraged to “go for it” rather than feel I was “too old to go for it.”