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.
Retirees reflect and share, especially teachers. It’s what we do. Amazingly, we can now see the forest for the trees, which was close to impossible on the treadmill of the daily work grind. Only after the dust has settled, can the past become clear. In my personal effort to build a positive online social network, Chariho Cares!, to encourage current teachers to look up, not down, and create grassroots solutions to help kids learn, I am struggling, but not giving up! I have this observation to make in hopes that it will start a conversation about how to move forward publicly, professionally, and personally.
I believe there is a passive aggressive game being played between administration and teachers, perpetrated by the national economic crisis in the early 1990’s, when our education system was identified as the root of all that is wrong in America. The resulting education reform movement, although well intended to leave no child behind, (Who could argue against that slogan?) has created a negative school climate. Targeting both teachers and administrators, punitive sanctions from federal and state governments, based on standardized expectations, have not solved all that was wrong in America. Instead, a climate of competition and fear has permeated public education, essentially morphing teachers from their unique personas into sheep and their immediate administrators into shepherds.
Merit pay experiments, mass firings of principals and teachers, and the squelching of teacher creativity in the classroom have successfully “silenced the lambs.” Fear of losing their jobs in this highly charged atmosphere robs them of the full expression of their passion and drives educators to fly under the radar to avoid being targeted as a problematic member of the flock. Early on the veteran sheep and shepherds view their outspoken peers as dangerous to the safety of the herd. Outspoken peers are either silenced or they choose to leave the herd for greener pastures. New lambs, who come full of energy and ideas, are schooled in the herd mentality. Appropriate subservience is obviously rewarded with promotion.
Instead of viewing teachers as sheep, we should honor their unique skills, talents, and ideas. Each teacher, just like each student, possesses personal strengths, and the goal of education should be to identify and encourage the development of these strengths within a relevant curriculum for a successful life. Personalized education should be embraced for teachers and administrators as well as students. We should encourage them to develop relationships with kids that showcase their true animal characteristics. Only then will a student-centered classroom that blends available technology and digital resources with teacher-facilitated guidance transform American education. Blended Learning is good for all of us.
A herd of sheep gives you milk, wool, meat. The world of animals gives your school a real treat!
This observation is based on the underwhelming response from my fellow colleagues to join the social networking scene, where the opportunity to grow as a professional and a person awaits them.
Advice whether or not you ask: Fill the skies with little blue birds! Join @charihocares on Twitter to raise your sound, No “Baa, Baa, Baas!”