My Journey to become a “Modern Elder”- Chip Conley Style

By, Kari Henley, Co-Founder, Age Without Borders

People always ask me, “Why are you working in the field of aging?” Most of my friends and colleagues had no idea such an industry even existed, and most people spend very little time thinking about getting older whatsoever.

And yet, to me – exploring our inner attitudes around aging is the final frontier of personal growth, and the global longevity boom is a societal issue that is about to slam the world in the face. We can innovate and evolve, or face a crisis. I’d rather learn to surf this wave, and be a part of the solution.

I started Age Without Borders in 2016. I was freaking out about turning 49, and had a burning desire to assuage my curiosity about midlife and aging. I created a startup with a global team ranging in age from the 20’s to 80’s who helped me to interview over 100 thought leaders from 40 countries about the next chapters of life. We produced two summits that reached thousands of viewers from 72 countries, and grew into our current role as consultants and experts in building virtual communities, events and experiences. It has been a blast.

I was first introduced to Chip Conley a year ago, and am so thrilled to host him as our final guest expert on our Age Without Borders World Tour on December 5th at 8am PST.  The story of how I came to engage with Chip is worth sharing…

Last November, I attended the Aging2.0 conference in San Francisco. Chip was the final keynote speaker. I must admit- I had no idea who he was, and almost didn’t stay. I had a migraine, and sat down next to someone on the balcony who was talking my ear off. I excused myself and started walking out the door. Yet, something made me stop. I had a shiver on the back of my neck. I promptly pivoted on my heels, turned around, marched back inside and this time was moved to sit in the second row.

Chip came on stage, and I was riveted. He described starting Joie de Vivre hopsitality at age 25, sold it at 50, hit midlife, and wondered what to do next. He was approached by two young punks starting some company called Airbnb, knowing nothing about tech. He nearly declined the offer, but instead decided to explore how to be both a mentor and a student at the same time. He led from behind this time, and it worked.

After leaving Airbnb, Chip wrote, “Wisdom@Work – the Making of a Modern Elder” at his new home in Baja, Mexico, where he was learning to surf and building a new chapter of life. He then came up with the Modern Elder Academy for those in midlife transitions to reflect, connect with peers, and revel in the “liminality” of this in-between time.

As Chip was describing the book and MEA, I knew he was going to become one of the biggest voices and leaders in this industry I had come to love. I found myself writing in my notebook; “I will one day meet Chip Conley and attend the Modern Elder Academy.” I had that shiver on my neck again. Two minutes later, Chip invited those of us in the audience to apply to the beta sessions. I must have dropped my pen. Destiny was calling.

After postponing two dates I could not attend, I finally headed to Baja in June. I was smack in the middle of some huge personal transitions. It was precisely the perfect time.

The beauty of the Modern Elder Academy is immediately apparent in the gorgeous landscape. The high arid desert and sparkling Pacific Ocean seems to speak of reflection, maturity and transformation.

The campus is warm, stunning in design, décor and beckons one to kick off their shoes and sigh. Chip’s background in hotels and hospitality contributed to an ideal setting for getting to know others, having time alone to reflect, and a family style schedule that created deep intimacy very quickly.

I learned a lot. I cried a lot. I laughed a lot. Our group built driftwood lines in the sand, baked bread, talked in large and small groups about deeply moving and reflective topics, walked to local beachside restaurants, made home-made margaritas, danced, shared poetry, balanced rocks, and explored our vulnerabilities. Our group and yours truly even made it into the promo video.

Each person from our group of 13 came from entirely different backgrounds and stories; yet all deeply identified with this experience of midlife being a time of dissolving one part of ourselves to make room for another.

A metaphor was introduced of early adulthood representing that of a caterpillar; busy focusing on the details of work, homes, family; followed by midlife representing the chrysalis or cocoon as a time to reflect, and transform; and finally the ‘third act of life’ being that of the butterfly exploring anew. It came up again and again as we marked the solstice- the longest day of the year.

I am delighted to identify as a “modern elder.” I am committed to running a business built across the generations and geographic regions. I will soon be 52 and I have lost all fear of getting older. I admire my friends in their 70’s and 80’s and hope to be just like them when I reach their stages of life. I am inspired every day by folks who had to take care of their spouse, parent, grandparent or friend, and pivoted to starting new products and services to serve the higher good. I love my team.

I will be interviewing Chip from Copenhagen, Denmark where I am proud to be accepted as a new Board Member for the International Federation on Ageing.  Chip will be hanging out in Baja with the latest crew at the Modern Elder Academy, Judy Rough, my co-founder will be minding the fort in Colorado, and Gabriel Monteiro, our International Director, joins from Paris. It is a very small and wonderful world.

Join us. The calls are a blast. We use a video conference platform that looks like the Hollywood Squares and has a powerful energy of synergy and connection with virtual breakout groups that is infectious. Aging industry solopreneurs, educators, innovators, and leaders from around the world have been coming together once a month for high level education, networking and community building that is impossible to accomplish at an annual academic conference.

Our 2019 season of the World Tour will be posted soon, and will be making stops in some incredible places with extraordinary modern elders making a difference. See you there!

One thing you can do when it all falls apart.

By, Lindsay Hopper, Launch Manager Age Without Borders

When someone you love gets injured, or falls ill, everything stops. If you’ve had little kids you know the stress of having to take the day off of work or schedule last-minute care for a sudden fever or cough. But what about when something bigger happens, say with your aging parents, a dear friend, a spouse or a child?

In a moment, they are the only thing that matters. Everything else gets put on the back burner so you can be there to take care of them; work, plans, relationships, self-care all come to a standstill. Sometimes the situation is temporary, an intense period that comes, resolves and then you move on, other times, it seems to go on indefinitely; plane rides every month or two to check in on your aging parents, paid caregivers coming and going as they care for your husband, so much so that your house doesn’t even feel like your home anymore, plus are those caregivers even doing a good job? Frustrations rise within the family as everyone tries to manage care with their own idea of what’s best. 

Your time is stretched thin, your patience is unraveling at both ends, and your own health starts to pay the price. Burnout sets in, you begin to feel like your life is falling apart, plus you’re not even doing that great of a job at caring for your person who needs you so much, you think, they deserve so much more.

I’m going to stop you right there – yes, If you haven’t already, you will undoubtedly, stumble into the role of a caregiver, and yes, caregiving is always challenging but you have more help and support than you ever imagined.

Yes, caregiving burnout is very real. But you’re NOT alone. You have resources in your community, both professional and personal, at your disposal that you can’t begin to imagine.

Age Without Borders has been working for over six months preparing a Global Caregiving Summit. I hope you’ll join us, you can get more info and a FREE pass here. You will find a true community there of like minded folks- from industry leaders to everyday friends and family like you and I –  who have all been profoundly impacted by caregiving, and have innovated new solutions, tools, resources and inspiration.

That launches on Saturday, but for today, I have one amazing mindshift for you that can change everything.

It’s simple; love yourself exactly where you are, and love “your person” wherever they are. Sometimes when burnout sets in, the sick or injured person we normally adore, who needs us, relies on us and trusts us more than anybody else in their time of need, starts to get, well, annoying. Don’t worry, that is just the burnout talking! Burnout will tell you all kinds of things like, you’re not doing a good enough job, the person you’re caring for is needy, unappreciative, or not trying hard enough, the doctors and nurses and other caring professionals aren’t on your side or just don’t get it. I hear you. Anytime you hear burnout chatting in your head, and you start wanting people or circumstances to “Just be different already!” take a breath, then repeat after me “I love you exactly where you are.”

Now, objectively, what you’re observing is probably accurate, you’re not imagining things! Trust that what you observe is real. But, before you rampage or fall into an emotional puddle, (as burnout will have you do) take a minute, breathe, connect to your heart and love. If for just one moment, love yourself exactly where you are, don’t ask yourself to change. Love your person exactly where they are. Love your care team exactly where they are. Recognize we are all on a journey. None of us have arrived yet and this very experience is transforming us all, inviting us to become bigger, fuller, more complete versions of the person we’re growing into. 

Take this moment to love them as they are… then take action. Trust me, this one shift will change the results you get when you do make the phone call, have the tough conversation or make the decision about treatment or choose a care facility.

Caregiving is a fire, you never walk through it unchanged. It is a catalyst for change on the deepest levels. You are being called. We are here to help.

Join us, starting this Saturday, January 20th. You can lean on us, we are here to support you in your caregiving journey past, present and future. We’ve assembled 50+ world leaders in caregiving to speak in their particular area of expertise. You’ll get support for your burnout, help to find the right facility and care team for your person, the inside scoop on new policy and how to take advantage of it, and activities, exercises and inspiration to help you connect with your person as a person, not just a care recipient.

These leaders and luminaries in caregiving have done seriously amazing things; we have United Nations speakers, policy influencers, a Pulitzer prize winning poet, as well as real caregivers who will share the story of their transformational journey with caregiving. Again, you can find all the details, and sign up for a FREE pass, here.

I look forward to seeing you at the summit! Here’s to you and your caregiving transformation.

PS Join us, starting this Saturday, January 20th, for our Global Caregiving Summit. Over the week we’ll hear from over 50 speakers who will share tools and inspiration to prevent and treat caregiving burnout. Register for a FREE pass here.

Lindsay Hopper is our Launch Manager here at AWB. She helps our big ideas get out to the people who need them most. To learn more about what Lindsay’s up to, visit her and say “Hi!”at lhopper.com.

How Will You Use Your Extra Season of Life?

The seasons are changing, and this week marks the autumnal equinox – a day when there is an equal balance of light and dark. In the Northern hemisphere where I live, the Fall leaves are turning, and nights are growing cool. In the Southern hemisphere, my South African friend Lynda Smith is enjoying increasingly warm days and blooming Spring flowers. We sat down together this week to talk about the seasons of life, and how lucky we are to have an extra season to use wisely.

Lynda Smith is the founder of the Refirement Network, and is an expert in planning for the second half of life. She coaches clients to examine the internalized limitations that hold us back, as well as teaching concrete tools and skills to “refire” an entirely new career, passion project or hobby. Her slogan is: Don’t Retire – Refire!

In the past 100 years, we have gained an additional 30 years of life, and those in their 60’s are far from the rocking chair! There is a new season of health, vitality and capability that offers time for tremendous contribution and impact. Lynda calls it the “younger-old.”

“Our parents and grandparents didn’t have technology, and didn’t live in a global world like we do,” said Smith. “We need to spend our time as pioneers –we are the first generation pioneering this new chapter of life as the “younger-old.” It is an exciting time to take up a leadership journey for ourselves.”

Check it out:

How are YOU spending this extra season of your life? Are you starting something new, finding your voice, giving back, running a marathon? Post a picture and a comment on our facebook page!

Chicken Soup Author’s Message: Live Your Priority with Self Care

One of the greatest challenges busy adults share is making time to take proper care of ourselves. The demands of life never go away, and many in the 50+ category face complex and time sensitive issues at work, home, managing children, or grandchildren; as well as occasionally caring for aging parents.

LeAnn Thieman is the author of 13 “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books – including; Chicken Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul, and most recently, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses. She is a sought after public speaker, and I was lucky enough to share a chat with her this week.

LeAnn stressed that no one can live the life we are meant to live if we don’t attend to basic self care. She highlighted a great acronym: “Care 4 Me,” as a simple, soothing and easy tool to implement each and every day. By caring for ourselves, we are better able to focus on our mission in life and “living our priority.”

Enjoy our conversation above.

CARE 4 ME acronym:

C:  Connect with your Higher Power.   Spend 15 minutes a day in prayer, meditation or reflection. Attend services or gatherings if you can, and participate in that community.

A:  Ask for your “juice.”   If in your quiet time, you realize that your life is out of balance, physically, mentally or spiritually, make a plan for what you need to achieve better balance, then ask for it (kindly), from yourself, your family and your workplace.

R:  Rest and sleep.   We would never deprive a child of sleep, because we know it makes them sick and grumpy, yet we often do that to ourselves. Turn off TV and technology and get 8 hours of sleep per night.

E:  Eat right.   Consume the quantity and quality of food you know your body needs.

 4:  Four times a day: Breathe!   For 15 minutes, 3-4 times a day, breathe slow deep and easy to releases stress, tension and endorphins.

M: Mind your mind.  Implement your mental balance tools. Practice positive thinking and visualization, knowing it can change your body and your mind. Laugh 400 times a day, like children! Forgive yourself and someone else.

E:  Exercise 3 times a week   Walk 45 minutes a day, even in 15 minute increments.  Incorporate exercise into your everyday life. Mow your lawn, garden, play ball with kids, vacuum to rock and roll!

Leann stressed taking a week to try out this new motto:

“Today I will also Care 4 me,  and truly live my priority.”

Hope you enjoyed! Feel free to share a few of your simple tips to keep balance in a hectic world. Hop on our Facebook page, and be sure to sign up for our mailing list for upcoming announcements and goodies. 🙂

Chicken Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

 

Solar Eclipse Creates Community Magic

Welcome to this week’s video blog! So glad you are here.

Did you make it to the eclipse? Half of the Age Without Borders team made the effort. Judy watched from Colorado, Brigit and her daughter Isabel were in Michigan, and Kari made the trek to Wyoming.

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It was exalted. It was rare, and the totality zone was awe inspiring. Facebook was flooded with images of people with kooky glasses staring at the heavens. Humanity needed the respite. Part of what made it great was sharing the experience with scores of strangers – all coming together for a few hours; with a goal as simple as gazing at the sun. Human beings require such gatherings now and then to feel secure, connected, and part of something that binds us together, and enshrouds us in a shared purpose. Social isolation is one of the greatest health risks of our time.

As both an aging and community enthusiast, Kari reflects on how important it is to attend to our relationships: starting within ourselves, and expanding outwards to our family, friends, co-workers, and participating in collective experiences like an eclipse (or a race, a civic march, or dance festival). Enjoy!

Now it’s your turn! Are you attending to the various circles of community in your life, and have you experienced a collective gathering that inspired you? Share it with us in the comments below, and on our Facebook page! We can’t wait to hear.

How Do You Perceive the Timeline Of Your Life?

How Do You Perceive the Timeline Of Your Life

This week, I had the great pleasure to speak about this with Dorian Mintzer, M.S.W., Ph.D. She is a retirement coach, author, owner of Revolutionize Retirement and an adjunct professor teaching a “Multidisciplinary  Introduction to Gerontology” class at Regis College in Weston, Massachusetts. She was kind enough to assemble a few of her diverse students together – ranging in age from young twenties to early 50’s. Our crew included Karen from El Salvador, Yunez from Turkey,  Adamnatu from Sierra Leone, several American students as well as Alan O’Hare, Ph.D., one of the guest speakers for the course.

How we perceive aging is vital.  “What I’ve found in my clinical work and teaching is that often people embrace whatever are the prevalent stereotypes about aging–generally with an ageist lens–and therefore don’t want to think ahead since “aging” is fraught with fears about all of the negatives about getting older,” said Mintzer.

“Certainly there are many changes that occur as we age, positive and negative, but it’s not all “down hill” unless you believe it is. I find that people are surprised when they learn that by the time you’re 65 is less about genes (about 30%) and more ( about 70%) about things you can “control”–such as nutrition, exercising your body and brain, spirituality, meaningful relationships, connection, engagement and finding purpose and meaning in life. With this paradigm shift it can become less scary to think about getting older.”

Mintzer offers a Boomers and Beyond Special Interest Group (SIG) for Interdisciplinary Professionals once a month to bring together people interested in positive aging.  Revolutionize your Retirement Interview with Expert’s Series is the 4th Tuesday of each month (except December) at 12:00 noon Eastern time. Sign-up each month, 7 -10 days before the call, at  www.revolutionizeretirement.com. 

Studies have shown that most people can only imagine about 5-10 years into the future. If you think back, to age 12, for example, being 18 or 20 was really grown up. When you were 25, being 35 was “old” and 50 was inconceivable. We were never taught to plan ahead and anticipate the many stages of a potential 100 year life. Today, many can expect to enjoy another 20 to 30 years of active living AFTER age 65. How do we expand our minds to embrace, celebrate and prepare?

Now it’s your turn! Leave us a comment in the box below, or up on our Facebook page.  How do you perceive the years ahead? Can you see your life through to 100? What would it look like? We love to hear your ideas and stories!

 

A Different View of Aging  When Bonus Years Are Added to Your Life

By, Judy Rough

My perspective on aging might be a bit different from others. When I was 47 years old I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had 6 tumors in my right breast and the treatment was a bilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy. Due to the fact that I was alive in an era where these medical advances were available to me, I continue to live 14 years later at this point.

Living is very different now versus pre-cancer life. I have painful neuropathy in my feet every day for the last 14 years. Many of my internal organs have not always been happy post-chemo. In medical terms, I am probably not considered a “healthy” person. When it comes to my emotional and psychological health, I am in tip top shape.  I maintain a positive attitude and luckily I can move freely and easily.

If I lived at another time or in another place, if I had inadequate medical care, if I had a terrible attitude, if I lacked a fantastic support system, and if other negative random circumstances had been a part of my story; my life could have ended at 47 years old.

For the last 14 years, I have experienced my children graduating from college, my daughter getting married, my children gainfully employed, 2 granddaughters, a son-in-law, a new job, caregiving for my mother, my husband’s career success and his retirement, enriching friendships, travel to Italy, personal and professional rewards. These bonus years bring me great joy and have caused me to focus on the pleasure I get from having gray hair, older skin with new markings and texture, aches and pains, a great mind, profound influence in my society, and continued curiosity that motivates me daily to keep learning and applying the knowledge to leave the world better than it was when I came into it.

On the day I returned from the doctor after being diagnosed with cancer, my husband was driving me home after our appointment, an image was imprinted in my brain. We were turning the corner on to our street headed home and there was a couple about to cross the street. They were holding hands and both had perfectly white hair. I pointed to them and said to my husband, “I want to be like them”. I was not finished. I wanted the great privilege of growing older.

Now that I am considered an “older”, I show up with confidence knowing that I as well as my peers have a lot to contribute. I work constantly on changing my own ageist beliefs and I stand up to others (politely) who are using “elder speak” or displaying ageist behaviors. I will show by example and express with my voice that ageism, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-faith behaviors, and negative judgments of any kind are not acceptable and not tolerated.

I have the privilege of these bonus years that brought me to being an “older” and I proudly display the marks of my years.

Judy Rough is on the Executive Team at Age Without Borders, and is the Senior Director at the Society of Certified Senior Advisors is the premier membership organization certifying and educating professionals who serve older adults.

 

Ashton Applewhite Kicks Ageism in the Face

Ashton Applewhite Ageism TedTalk

Even though it doesn’t always feel like it, our society has made dramatic improvements in our understanding and tolerance of one another. Our ability to accept others of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientation or spiritual preference is far from perfect, but at a macro level – we are evolving.

However, while most forms of discrimination are towards one sector of society, there is an insidious type of discrimination every single person on Earth shares. All of us are going to get old; and we hold a powerful collective prejudice around aging. The accepted idea that “getting older” generally sucks, and leads to decline, unhappiness and misery is a myth. (Actually, studies show we are happier later in life.)

No matter the color of your skin, who you love, or how you worship – we are all subjected to the pervasive impacts of ageism. Have you ever found yourself saying, “I’m too old,” or, “I’m having a senior moment,” or thinking, “What is she doing wearing that at her age?” or deciding, “I could never pursue a degree or new profession at my age?If you recognize any of these warning signs, you are limiting your life for no reason.

In my last blog, I wrote about how I fretted needlessly about reaching certain milestones of aging. Turning 39, 49, and then 50 were “Freak Out” years – until I met a few ageism activists like Ashton Applewhite and Dr. Bill Thomas, who blew my limited mindset wide open. Once I started exploring my own inner ageist attitudes, I experienced dramatic and widespread epiphanies. I began to see examples of ageism everywhere I looked, and saw how destructive it can be.

Ashton has become one of my mentors, and colleagues. I am also lucky enough to consider her a dear friend. She has been thinking about ageism for a long time: deeply, widely and broadly. She has brought her fiery spunk to forcing this topic to the surface. Her book, “This Chair Rocks- A Manifesto Against Ageism,” was my favorite book last year. I gave copies everywhere. Ashton has been blasting through the white noise, and forcing the conversation with her book, New York Times articles, and online forum, “Yo is this Ageist?” She asserts,

“Aging is living.  We are all going to get older, and most of us are scared stiff at the prospect. Yet, ageism is a global human rights issue.”

As I fine tune my own perceptions of aging, I STILL ask Ashton if she thinks something is “ageist.” We are so oblivious to the societal norms, sometimes ageism or ageist attitudes are hidden, subterranean even.

With over 76 million baby boomers currently blasting through an unprecedentedly healthy and vibrant second adulthood, many easily living to age 100, there is no better time than now to chuck the ageist barriers we share, inside and out.

If you only watch one TEDtalk this year, watch this one. Eleven minutes of fire and brimstone truth.

So, let’s get a fiery aging and ageism conversation going in the comments below and on our Facebook page. Have you confronted any ageist attitudes in yourself? What were they and how did they show up? How have you been impacted by an ageist society? Let us know!

 

How a “Freak Out” About Getting Older Changed My Life

Welcome to Kari’s new weekly video-blog (Vlog) series.

I will be focusing on breaking down inner biases we have about getting older, no matter where we are on the timeline of life, and having some fun increasing our “aging literacy.”  I am thrilled to begin, and have some incredible special guests in the cue for upcoming posts.

Question #1: Have you ever had a “freak out” at hitting a certain birthday or a certain age? 

Our fears or dread about getting older is nothing more than self discrimination. Society has taught us to believe surpassing a certain age means leaving the “prime of life” behind.  Ageism is real. It is rampant, deceptive, and buying into it hurts our experience of life, our longevity and our global society.

It is quite possible many of you reading this will live to be 100 – so turning 50 or 65 or 71 means another 30 to 50 years of living. In today’s video, I share my “Turning 49 Freak Out Story,” and explore how learning from top thinkers in the aging industry turned a possible “midlife crisis” into one of the greatest gifts I could have asked for.

Embracing this “New Age of Aging” has completely reshaped how I view the world, transformed my attitude about the future, shifted how I parent my kids, and has helped me to get rid of useless cultural paradigms that were holding me back.

Now it’s your turn! Tell me your best “Freak Out” aging story.

What age or birthday really got to you? Did it become a trigger or catalyst towards something new? Drop a comment below, and hop onto our Facebook page to share your story!