Here's to a Really Big Resolution

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By Abigail Trafford
Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Another year, another New Year's resolution: Do push-ups, lose 10 pounds, read Tolstoy, walk the dog more. . . . What if we were to make a really big resolution? What if we vowed -- as individuals and a society -- to change the culture of aging?

Here are 10 ways to get started:

1.Look forward. The stereotype of aging is agonizing decline. But because of health gains, there's a lot of good living to do once you join the AARP generation. A new stage has emerged in the life cycle after midlife that can last 20, 30 or more years. There's no avoiding death, but there's time for a personal renaissance with loving relationships and meaningful work.

2.Plan beyond money. The only question many people ask themselves as they approach the "golden years" is: Do I have enough money to retire? But the first question should be: What am I going to do in these years? With whom? Where? Only then can you answer: How can I make sure I have enough?

3.Change the language. Retire the word "retire," which implies withdrawing from life. Even if you leave your job, you are likely to continue to work, or go to school, or join a theater group. Also, be careful about calling people "senior" or "elderly." Last year, a Virginia newspaper referred to a 65-year-old woman as elderly, prompting this response from C.J. Borden, 67, a former flight attendant and community activist in Strasburg, Va.: "At first I laughed and then I got irritated. . . . There are very few 65-year-old people that I would call 'elderly.' "

4.Start dreaming. What do you want to do next? It's time to loosen up and imagine different scenarios for the future. Teenagers do this naturally -- one day they want to be a doctor, the next day a chef, the next day an astronaut. A whole education system is aimed at helping youngsters figure out what they want to do in life. The same kind of infrastructure is needed to help older men and women figure out what they want to do in this new stage of life.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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