Igniting a cultural change about how we think about seniors

July 25, 2012

After graduating college, I lived and worked in Santiago, Chile for three years. I enjoyed my time there, learning about the culture and exploring the quickly developing city. One New Year’s Eve, I asked some of my Chilean friends what their plans were. “We’ll celebrate the New Year with our family, then go out with our friends after midnight.” Really? New Year’s with your grandmother and your precocious 4 year-old nephew? Growing up in my family, I remember babysitters while my parents went out and later on, anxiously making plans with friends to make sure I had a fully baked New Year’s Eve plan.

I immediately loved the Chilean New Year’s where family takes center stage. The idea that, on a day that holds some promise for a fresh start or new adventure, you surround yourself with the people that have supported you in the past, and will likely be there to help you along in the future. In addition, celebrating a new year with different generations reminds us of our past and the people who helped create the opportunities we look forward to and sometimes take for granted. Finally, as a pragmatist with her own insecurities, you always have a place to go on New Year’s.

Jeremy Bloom, the two-time Olympic Skier and former NFL football player, gave a terrific talk at TEDx in Denver about the need to recognize and thank seniors in the US culture. During his discussion, he shared an experience he had while in Japan. He was riding a crowded bus when an elderly woman entered. Everyone stood up, helped her along, made sure she had a seat, then bowed to her. He saw a need for the US culture to do a better job appreciating seniors and the contributions they made to our world today. He even created ‘Wish of a Lifetime,’ a non-profit dedicated to enriching the life of seniors.

I was thrilled to hear about Jeremy’s organization and his efforts to bring a cultural shift in how we think about seniors in our country. In the meantime, when my own kids were born, I asked my husband if we could spend New Year’s with our kids, as long as they let us. It’s been 8 years now, and we love it. I just wish their grandparents lived closer to join us.

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