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Live Vibrantly - May 26, 2023

Aging Unbound at Goodwin Living

By Amanda Ranowsky

At Goodwin Living, we celebrate the contributions of older adults as we challenge the negative stereotypes of aging with our commitment to expanding the ways we can all thrive and find purpose as we age. We combat ageism with education and examples that counter the stereotype.

As a faith-based not-for-profit whose mission is to support, honor and uplift the lives of older adults, Goodwin Living offers a range of services that enable older adults to age where and how they choose. We also support efforts such as Older Americans Month, an observance led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) every May to acknowledge the contributions of past and current older persons to our country.

Each year, ACL designates a theme for Older Americans Month. In 2022, we supported the theme of Age My Way by sharing about CCaH programs and how they enable older adults to age in their own homes. In 2021, we celebrated Communities of Strength by showcasing the ways the Goodwin Living community came together during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, the theme is Aging Unbound, which seeks to explore diverse aging experiences and promote flexible thinking about aging. ACL offers four suggestions for ways we can challenge the narrative on aging:

  1. Embrace the opportunity to change
  2. Explore the rewards of growing older
  3. Stay engaged in your community
  4. Form relationships

Here is how Goodwin Living and the older adults in our community answer these calls.

Embrace the Opportunity to Change

Change can be difficult for people at any stage of life. It’s a common stereotype that older adults especially dislike change and are often stuck in their ways. At Goodwin Living, we frequently see examples of older adults who embrace change, try new things and find new passions.

Research shows that trying new things is actually beneficial for older adults. Learning new skills and engaging in new social settings helps to keep the mind sharp. There are plenty of opportunities for both of these activities when older adults make the choice to move to a senior living community.

Even during a global pandemic, Goodwin Living residents found benefits to making the move to senior living. Today, new residents still find peace of mind and increased social opportunities a bonus.

Ann Kurzius moved into Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads (GHBC) in March 2023. In her first few months as a new resident, Ann jumped right into the many social activities GHBC offers. “It’s a big change after living on my own since being widowed a quarter century ago,” she said. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many friendly fellow residents live here, who have the time, energy and inclination to converse face-to-face—a vanishing art these days!”

“I love the amazing choice of lectures, movies, classes, outings, clubs and more,” she continued, “all a mere elevator ride away.”

Explore the Rewards of Growing Older

Having more free time to take part in activities is one of the perks of retirement. For many older adults, those activities involve gaining new insights or learning new skills. There are benefits to these types of activities: research shows that learning more helps your brain be better at learning.

The knowledge that older adults gain during their lifetime also allows them to understand and experience the world more deeply. Learning doesn’t stop just because you’ve hit a certain age.

Norma Jean Lawton is resident at The View Alexandria by Goodwin Living. In an extension of her former teaching career, she leads sessions from The Great Courses for residents at The View Alexandria. For Norma Jean, classes like these are an opportunity to learn new things or explore familiar topics from a new perspective.

“People still want to learn new things, or get beyond what they knew before,” she said. “I’m interested in learning new things myself, and we have several residents here who are so knowledgeable about so many things.”

Norma Jean continued, “We have more residents coming in who are interested in learning something new or something they missed along the way before.”

“You can’t just stop. That’s been my whole life – you never stop learning.”

With their newly acquired skills, residents’ also bring benefits to their community. In 2021, a group of Goodwin House Alexandria residents – several of whom had no art experience before becoming a resident – collaborated to create a “barn quilt” display that now brightens the enclosed patio in our the Stonebrook, the Memory Support area. These residents enjoyed not only the delight of creating something beautiful, they also made something that brings joy to others.

Stay Engaged in Your Community

Older adults at Goodwin Living are no strangers to giving back to their community. The spirit of volunteerism pervades all three of our senior living communities. In ways large and small, residents engage in services that benefit those living and working on their campus and those in the greater community around us.

Georgia Fuller, another GHBC resident, organizes the Silver Panthers Huddle, a group of likeminded residents who engage in political and social activism. The group began as an extension of collaboration around the Women’s March in 2017.

“We met together, encouraged each other, and looked for what we could do,” Georgia said. “We continued our community outreach—providing Thanksgiving turkeys for families and angel-tree presents for children. We lobbied for immigrant rights, voter rights, women’s rights, health care and civility in public life. We also joined networks of Americans with similar goals.”

Silver Panther Huddle’s efforts now include collaborating with younger generations. “We realized it’s difficult to lobby a politician or official who doesn’t agree with you,” Georgia said. “We began adding our ‘widow’s mite’ to the work of political networks run by people younger than us, some of whom are just a decade or two younger, some of whom are Millennials or Gen Z-ers.”

This collaboration benefits everyone. “Our presence gives them a boost and working with them keeps us sane and hopeful,” she said. “We haven’t made the progress we wanted, but at least we’ve been stopping up the drain. We’ve also seen the future leaders who will keep going long after our memorial services are over.”

Form Relationships

Other residents found similar hope for the future by mentoring recent Goodwin Living interns. “I sound like a typical older person, reading the newspaper and saying, what is the world coming to?” said GHBC resident Jim Rials, who mentored Marymount University senior Symantha Shackleford during her internship with the Goodwin Living brain health team in Spring 2023. “Then I meet someone like Symantha,” he continued, “and I have a different glimpse than what the newspaper headlines suggest about what the world’s coming to, and I feel better.”

Through this inter-generational mentorship Jim has an opportunity to build a meaningful relationship. “We’ve all had difficult moments in our lives,” he said. “Sometimes, precisely because those moments are difficult, we find them difficult to share. Symantha shared some of the things that she struggled with in her life, and the fact that this wonderful person would trust me in that kind of way moved me.”

Studies have shown that people who have more social ties tend to live longer than those who don’t. Research also suggests that those who have more social support will often have better cardiovascular health, mental health and cognitive performance. In the past, we’ve celebrated other friendships built on our campuses – those built between residents, and those between residents and team members.

Challenging the Narrative on Aging

Getting older doesn’t mean disengaging from your community or stopping your life. The more we can showcase the older adults who are forming relationships, staying engaged in their community, exploring the rewards of growing older and embracing the opportunity to change, the better we can challenge the negative stereotypes of aging. By challenging the narrative on aging, we can all truly enjoy aging unbound.

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As Marketing & Communications Specialist, Amanda Ranowsky partners with colleagues throughout Goodwin Living to tell our stories and raise brand awareness. From printed collateral to digital marketing, Amanda covers many bases. Before joining Goodwin Living, Amanda worked for a small, family-owned business where she gained experience in content marketing. Amanda’s creative expression extends beyond the office. She is an active member of community theater and chorus groups.

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