By Deborah H. Anderson
There is a Halley’s Comet watch party at Gaswork’s Park on my 110th birthday. I have let the appropriate people know they can roll me up to the top pf the hill in my wheelchair and then put me in the pine box and six feet under the next day.
Now, hearing about Márìn Hughes, I am reconsidering that plan. Hughes is an Irish woman who just celebrated her 109th birthday. Wow! Born in 1914, before World War I had even started, think of all the events her life has spanned.
Did they wheel her into her birthday party? Nope. She walked in under her own power, looking to be no more than mid-eighties. After the party, she climbed up the steps of a bus going for a special outing!
I also just discovered surgeons can fix me again – swap out deteriorated bones with titanium. Many of you know I took a hard hit when I was nine in the back seat of a car with a rear-mounted engine by a drunk driver doing 90 mph in a 3,000-pound Oldsmobile. I’m pretty crunched from the L4-5 and below. Thanks to medical science, I may be able to walk up that hill for the aforementioned watch party. Yeah, medical team extraordinaire!
The last few weeks have also included the example of a friend who just passed, a few weeks after his 102ndbirthday. We were bridge buddies for years at Camp Burton Family Camp. His example, how he lived his life, has encouraged me to reaffirm my commitment to physical and cognitive health practices that increase the odds of being at the watch party. To appropriate a phrase from another setting, fitness is a practice, not a point of arrival. It is ongoing, daily, consistent.
I know that staying curious and embracing the unknown is the antidote to craving comfort and familiarity as my primary lived experience. I want my life to be an ever-expanding adventure, not shriveling or becoming diminished.
Erik Erikson, the German-American developmental psychologist, defines this choice as “stagnation vs generativity.” “Aging in Place” takes on new meaning when one considers a continuation of exploring new opportunities. Independent living and adaptive living engender the resources and supports to embrace and engage with new ideas, joys, awakenings, practices, and delights with gusto.
But what of collective generativity? What of generativity within a community? We are, as a community, at a worthy crossroad. What will we choose?