My husband and I often quip, when asked where we’re from, that we were born, raised and ruined all within the city limits of Chicago. So we were both surprised when I said yes to the notion of moving to Boston. The decision was a big one, but not a difficult one. The work is compelling and challenging—starting a new life, in a new city, in a new field is exciting but risky. Bostonians, I’ve read, can be cold and unwelcoming. This has not been my experience.
Enter Dr. Elizabeth Dugan, Associate Professor of Gerontology at the McCormack Graduate School at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and a partner in our work here at the Tufts Health Plan Foundation. After meeting her for the first time when she was briefing a handful of legislators and their staffs on the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data Report, she sent me an amazing albeit brief email:
“It was great to meet you yesterday. Welcome to Massachusetts! I know getting settled in a new place can be daunting.”
The message was followed by a list of recommendations—for a doctor, a plumber, a hair salon, realtor and contractor. She was welcoming me to the community, and sharing information that would help me settle in and adjust to my new world.
She didn’t stop there (and this is why I am writing). On another occasion, during a meeting here at the foundation, we discussed the issue of healthy aging and what it would take to have a deeper impact. I admitted that the field was new to me—and that there was so much to learn and knowing what I didn’t know felt overwhelming. I have a wealth of experience in community and corporate citizenship, but healthy aging? That is when I got another email.
“Great to see you this afternoon, and to talk about moving the needle on healthy aging… Watch this video — and you will know all the key points re aging. (One of my former students was a producer on this!).”
And so I am paying it forward. Watch this video created by Vital Pictures as part of the Coming of Age in Aging America project. In just under 5 minutes, you will hear and see that healthy aging is about healthy living. That if a community works for kids and older adults, it works for everyone. That we need to transform our thinking about an aging America as it relates to how we work, how we live, our families, all aspects of our lives, including our health. That the shift of an aging America is not temporary, but permanent.
I am not 65 or 55 but I’m getting close. Moving to a new city has not been easy, but it has been made better by a community that understands that transitions are complicated; that they are not just about finding a “new doctor,” but about finding a place in community. Transitions are about how you are living.
Eleanor Roosevelt once was quoted as saying, “Do something every day that scares you.” I’ve only been in my position for less than 100 days, and I am excited by that challenge. The changing perception of aging in America described in the video is the same kind of change we’re looking to lead here at the Tufts Health Plan Foundation. I also know that we can’t engage in this work alone. Together, we can make a real difference in how our communities are prepared for this permanent shift in demographics.
Please comment and tell me your thoughts: How will we come of age in an aging America?
P.S. This blog was also my way of publicly thanking Beth and my team for making the first 100 days simply AMAZING! I am grateful to them for making the transition a smooth one, and as I often remind them: Change is happening to all of us.