The term Blended Aging appeared in my head one day and just won’t leave. It has its root in Blended Learning, “a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through delivery of content and instruction via digital and online media with some element of student control over time, place, path, and pace.” (Wikipedia) I know about Blended Learning because I am an educator; I am interested in this aging thing, because I am recently retired and facing aging headon.
Several independent studies warn that the health care workforce will be inadequately prepared to meet the needs of boomers as older adults for two main reasons. We will be leaving the workforce in droves, including the healthcare field and needing varying levels of assistance as we age. It will take more than just improving on the existing models of service that are popular now to serve us into old age. It will take a mindset change on three fronts: cultural, societal, and political. (Ai-Jen Poo, The Age of Dignity, 2015) Our activism for social change in the 1960’s may have prepared us for our most important legacy to America and the world - a growth mindset toward older adults, who will not be ignored, silent, or neglected.
There is no denying that unless struck down by a sudden fatal illness or accident,we will gradually decline physically or mentally or both to the point of dependence for one or more basic needs: shopping, cooking, driving, cleaning, bathing, paying bills, yard work, and managing life in general. This nagging thought, our power in numbers, and our desire to leave a mark on the world can inspire us to manifest innovations for change to benefit us and those providing for us. We must move away from drifting aimlessly through retirement and focusing mainly on doctor’s reports and “doing” things to keep us from boredom; instead let’s create a movement that blends who we are, based on our youth, occupation, and retirement, with the health, wealth, and safety issues of aging.
Blended Aging is a concept of balancing these six factors, more than a formal program, like Blended Learning. However, it does encourage aging adults to actively control “time, place, path and pace” of services needed in their declining process.
So, what is Blended Aging? It is the older adult refusing to being relegated to invisibility. It is a spirit of lifelong learning that does not die, when retirement comes. It is the sharing of knowledge gained through experience. It is passing on of ethnic and family culture to the next generation. It is initiating relationships in society as a person of value. (Everyone is valuable!) It is actively participating in politics and government. It is fearing less, judging less, and resisting less. It is “being” who you are until the end, despite decline. Blended Aging is the strategic balancing of interests, skills, health, and wealth to REALLY LIVE life, not just exist. ". . .there is a critical element to successful aging. It requires the right blend of independence and assistance, augmented by the right kind of stimulation." (Alan S. Teel, MD, Alone and Invisible No More, 2011)
It will take more than this blog or your commitment to the cause. We must start a conversation that includes all stakeholders. The fixed mindset about aging that exists will be hard to dispel. The growth mindset that we need has the power to create a positive change in how boomers age. “Mindset change is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It's about seeing things in a new way. When people...change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework. Their commitment is to growth, and growth takes plenty of time, effort, and mutual support. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.” (Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success, 2014)
The path to old age, should we luck out and go there, promises to be “some of the most challenging times” in our lives. Are you in?
Advice whether or not you ask: Join the conversation. Follow #blendedagingchat on Twitter. Your grassroots questions and comments will help dig into the core of the issue.
Read: Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine, and What Matters in the End. Atul Gawande. (2015)