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Our Blog:
Sharing new thoughts on aging.

Welcome to my blog. As President and CEO of Hebrew SeniorLife, I invite you to join me in a conversation that explores the many ways we think about the challenges and opportunities around aging. I hope you’ll share your thoughts and comments, and through our exchange of ideas together, we will continue on the journey to redefine the experience of aging.

Growing Older, Thinking Bigger

It’s human nature to crave new experiences, new relationships, and new opportunities to engage in activities we care about. It’s natural to expect this with children, and with “grown-ups” through the early and middle stages of adulthood. But often, the desire to “try new things” is not expected from older adults, nor encouraged. Many times it’s even discouraged out of some fear that it may be too ambitious for some reason. I believe we all deserve to have opportunities to try new things, have new experiences, and explore new possibilities at every phase of life, particularly in our older years.

So if we agree that opportunities for new experiences are needed at every phase of our lives, then how does one choose how to live their best life in the best place? What are the key criteria? Often when the families of seniors are participating in this important decision, the primary factors of “safe” and “comfortable” become the end goal, and “aging in place” becomes shorthand for “take it easy,” “let’s not do anything that might be too taxing,” and “stop growing and moving forward.”

But that doesn’t have to be the case. Independent living, assisted living, and even long-term care communities provide opportunities for older adults to dream, try new things, achieve, and exceed their own expectations. For example, at Orchard Cove, one of our independent living communities, more than 90 percent of residents exercise three times each week. That’s more than most 30-somethings I know! And families in our other communities often tell stories of parents or grandparents setting and achieving significant personal goals—from dancing at a grandchild’s wedding, to riding a horse for the first time, to building a website with support and encouragement from their community. Everything that we’ve learned from the last several decades of research on aging tells us that fuller lives are healthier and happier lives.

Sadly, too many of us buy into the myth that aging at home is the only way to stay independent and to “hold onto” our lives. Why is it that after a certain age, it’s assumed that changing where and how we live can’t possibly make our lives better?

By focusing on the familiarity of where we want to live—rather than on the engagement and enrichment of how we want to live—we risk shrinking our world down at a time when it could still be expanding. Older adults who remain in their own homes risk isolation, loneliness, and poor health. Community living can be so much better, and activity level and exercise are arguably the biggest factors. While it’s certainly possible to exercise and remain active at home, the group dynamic and engagement in senior living communities makes a tremendous difference. Those who do choose to remain at home should also try new things, like starting a neighborhood walking club or trying dance lessons, taking up sketching in local parks, volunteering, or even learning a new language. The important goal is to stay active and feel fulfilled.

“Living our best lives in the best place” should remain our rallying cry throughout life—celebrating the truth that people at any age have the same potential for personal growth and fulfillment as we see on the faces of the younger generation heading off to the next phase of their lives.

About Hebrew SeniorLife
Founded in Boston in 1903, Harvard Medical School-affiliated Hebrew SeniorLife is a nonprofit, non-sectarian organization that today provides communities and health care for seniors, research into aging, and education for geriatric care providers. With nearly 2,600 employees aligned around a common mission, goals and cultural beliefs, we are one of the largest employers in Massachusetts. We care for 3,000 seniors a day at our nine Boston-area campuses and communities. We reach countless more seniors, families, caregivers and senior care professionals around the U.S. and the world through our research and teaching mission.
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Louis J. Woolf's picture

About the Blogger

President and CEO, Hebrew SeniorLife

Lou Woolf joined Hebrew SeniorLife in 2009 as President and was elevated to President and CEO in February 2013. Lou is committed to redefining the experience of aging for the thousands of seniors served by HSL’s integrated system of health care, senior living communities, research and teaching, and dedicated to supporting HSL staff’s extraordinary commitment to do exactly that every day. Prior to joining HSL, Lou served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at North Shore Medical Center, the largest community hospital system in Partners Healthcare System. He also spent 10...

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Comments

I have read your interesting thoughts on aging and would like to follow this site. I am considering independent senior living and want to know about your venues Thank you,Naomi
Hi Ms. Fox, please visit the senior living section of our main website to learn more about our five senior living communities: www.hebrewseniorlife.org/senior-living
Off to a good start!
Thank you for your comment!
It has occurred to me in recent days that seniors are disappearing from public view at an alarming rate. I refer of course to the media. After watching Hallmark's Christmas programming, I decided I couldn't watch another 30-something couple celebrate Christmas with almost no involvement with us elders. Therefore, I went to the "old movies" channel, where I enjoy ALL generations, but especially the senior exchanges. Not to single out Hallmark especially, because there aren't any old people anywhere in the media (the exception being politics). On the rare occasion when old folk are present at the beginning of a story, one can feel fairly certain they will somehow die before the ending. What's worrisome about this - aside from my boredom - is that as seniors slowly fade from every day life, compassionate caregivers can more comfortably consider end-of-life solutions, I.e., euthanasia or even "death panels."
Thank you for taking the time to comment, Trisha. We understand your frustration. Do you follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/hebrewseniorlife)? We make sure that our social presence shares invigorating stories of seniors in our communities and at large, as well as information for older adults and their children that addresses issues such as compassionate care and EOL.
wonderful concept to help spouses understand the importance of learning more about aging and how we can support our loved ones...my husband (Judge Panarese recently became a resident) Q
Thank you for your comment!
I am interested to know what, if any arrangements for comfort, social activity and welcome are made for LGBT aging folks and couples.
Hi Mr. Saperia, Thank you for your comment! We are thrilled to share that we recently launched an initiative, in partnership with the LGBT Aging Project, to address the concerns and specific health and wellness needs of LGBT seniors at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center. You can find more information here: http://blog.hebrewseniorlife.org/blazing-trail-improved-care-lgbt-seniors, and we have more blogs about this initiative in progress.
excellent blog
Thank you for your comment!

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