Simply because of the title — “Aging: Everybody’s Doing It!” — many would have expected an older audience in attendance. However, this TEDxJacksonville Salon, brought together a diverse audience. It seems we’re all interested in this common thread we face, growing older and caring for each other, regardless of how many birthdays we’ve celebrated.
Our multi-generational audience at “Aging Everybody’s Doing It!” consisted of Intellectual Explorers from around the city, along with many Jacksonville University students, alumni and faculty.
Our event occurred on campus on Jacksonville University’s Charter Day, which honors the university’s founding and official signing of its charter. This year’s 82nd birthday involved a dedicated volunteering day, a lively celebration on campus, and this well-timed conversation on aging. Our TEDxJacksonville panel and volunteer team enjoyed having JU students pushing this conversation on growing older.
Our opening video, The Big Idea in 4 Minutes – Coming of Age in Aging America, got us thinking: “What will it mean for us to all grow up, live and age in a society where half the citizens are over the age of 50?”
This idea derives from an extensive public media project, Coming of Age in an Aging America, which is working to shape aging America as a productive society.
Two TED Talks followed. The first, Robert Waldinger’s What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness, asked the question, “What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life?” After directing an unprecedented 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has pioneering data on happiness and aging. Contrary to popular belief, satisfaction does not come from fame or wealth, nor do either of these deliver a long, fulfilling life. The bottom line: People who are more connected are happier, healthier and live longer.
Our second TED Talk, Dan Gilbert’s The Psychology of Your Future Self, focused on Gilbert’s recent research on the “end of history illusion” — phenomenon illustrating how humans often think the person we are now is the same we will always be. This is not the case.
Our minds were opened with the inspiring ideas from these talks and we were ready for lively dialogue on the topic of aging.
To facilitate the discussion, we were joined by a panel of experts:
- Matt Kane, owner of Greenshades Software and a member of the Jacksonville University Board of Trustees
- Nina Waters, president of The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida and an EVE Award winner
- Dr. Ruth O’Keefe, a professor of accounting at Jacksonville University, an attorney and CPA
- Earl Evens, the executive director of
Their experience led to a conversation about a much richer and multidimensional definition of aging, one that addresses how generational expectations have changed over time, and how each of us — at every age — is facing new pressures and being asked to do more.
The leaders engaged with the audience openly, and soon discovered the common theme in the conversation was in the 21st century, things have changed. We must unleash the economic, intellectual and moral productivity inherent in all ages of our population to create better options for those in advanced age and for ourselves as we age.
We talked about the characteristics of age-friendly communities, which included local initiatives like The District, Life Well Lived, which is an entirely new approach to multi-generational community living planned for Jacksonville’s Southbank. It’s a place where people can get the most out of life, mind, body and soul.
We created a list of needs for our aging society:
- social connectedness
- availability of affordable housing
- safe aging in one place
- a close proximity to social networks
- accessibility for those less mobile
- encouraging culture to do for others, rather than be forced to hire help
- daycare solutions so family members are still able to work and have self-care time
These values, both smaller and larger than Jacksonville, are multi-tiered conversations we need to have with our families and an honest conversation we need to have as a country. What is right? And how do we pay for it all?
Several people in the audience voiced opinions on aging being seen as a negative, but they believed it needs to be viewed as a happily anticipated topic.
More than one attendee thought aging and death aren’t talked about enough. One woman shared a personal account of the untimely death of her son and how she wished she would’ve had a conversation about his wishes. Her story encouraged us all to talk to our loved ones.
We spoke about the beautiful exchange of multi-generational initiatives in Jacksonville. For example, a local brought up the fact YMCA offers a Facebook Friday, where millennials teach “Silver Shoes” Social Media “This looks like it’s one way tradeoff, but it’s not. The older adults implant nuggets (of wisdom) into the youth.”
As people became more comfortable sharing, many opened up about the fear of engaging with someone out of their age range. It’s easy to be afraid, thinking someone older, or younger, may not want to hang out. But more than likely they do. TEDxJacksonville co-organizer and executive producer Sabeen Perwaiz said, “Some of my closest friends are over 65. They have wisdom.” She continued, “The plan works both ways. I learn from them, but they also learn and benefit from me.” Sharing benefits both, and according to The Aging America Project, both parties gain from a health-perspective as well.
The room buzzed with side conversations. Talks within talks, a sign that overall, aging is a topic we’re all passionate about. From how we grow old gracefully, to caring for our more-experienced generations, whether you’re a Gen X’er or a Baby Boomer, it’s something we all face together. Our concerns about growing older are a discussion we encourage you to continue. Visit the sites above, watch the TED Talks, and continue spreading the ideas from TEDxJacksonville’s Salon “Aging: Everybody’s Doing It!”
Author: Becka Lee Gruber