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Q&A: What Are Some Misconceptions About Aging?

Who says a cremation urn needs to be boring?

Question: What is one of the greatest misconceptions around aging, caregiving or end-of-life?

Answer: Where to begin? There are so many misconceptions, many of which are fueled by a society that doesn't want to see or talk about these things! If we hear anything at all, it's mainly concerns and fears, and we are left to our imaginations.

But if I had to pick only one, I'd say the biggest misconception is that aging is only about decline.

When I was young, my grandparents passed away by the time I was 6 years old. I didn't know any "elders" until my Mom reached her late 70s and moved to North Carolina. My limited exposure to aging had given me ideas of white hair, walkers, hearing aids, and small glass bowls filled with sweets. As I started getting pulled into my Mom's world and community, however, a whole wondrous part of existence opened up. I began to meet diverse, strong personalities, hilarious joke-tellers, amazing, compassionate friends...all over the age of 70. How would I have known this without meeting them (and how unfortunate if I hadn't!)

Likewise, in my classes, I often see examples of amazing strength and adventure. One student moved here to NC, where she knew no one, to live completely on her own for the first time in her life. What courage! And many students openly support each other and share their vulnerabilities (being vulnerable is a very powerful skill as Brene Brown points out!) helping them to make new connections on deep and meaningful topics.

Luckily, there is a growing awareness and appreciation of the beauty and benefits of aging. Pioneers like Dr. Bill Thomas, author of "Second Wind" and Ashton Applewhite, author of "This Chair Rocks" are spreading the word that our elders bring an important and essential balance and perspective to our quickly changing world.

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