Age Brilliantly advocates that adults live intentionally – plan their adult journey and navigate it to maximize their potential for life fulfillment. Unfortunately, too many people avoid looking at their own future and choose to live by “default” by adopting the norms and mores of their societies. This is unfortunate because many of today’s practices were initiated centuries ago and may no longer be appropriate (e.g., retirement from a life of physical labor for a few well-deserved years of leisure – for people with 40-45 year lifespans – may not meet the needs of knowledge workers who want to contribute into their 70s and beyond.)
What better way to plan for your future than to actually experience it? Since we don’t have a time machine, the next best solution is to simulate what we might be like in the future. In this way, we can experience how our bodies, our minds, our relationships, might be like. And, most important, we can take responsibility for the journey between now and then, and make changes to maximize our potential for a fulfilling life.
Kudos to PBS for broadcasting “Fast Forward”(https://www.pbs.org/show/pbs-fast-forward/) for its hour show in which it followed four families – four millennials and their parents – travel into (potential) futures to take a proactive look at aging. In specific, it used a number of techniques, including having each person wear M.I,T. Agelab’s Aging Suit (called A.G.N.E.S.) and significant make-up to enable the people to look, feel and experience what it might be like to be 30 years older. The oldest person “reached” a simulated age of 85.
Additional congratulations go to Next Avenue, which works with many PBS stations, for publishing a companion program which offers step-by-step instructions and resources to help you plan for your future. (e.g., Take email courses that break key tasks into small, manageable parts. Explore guides that address topics like health care, housing options, and managing belongings. Track your progress with a master checklist. See: https://www.nextavenue.org/fast-forward).
As you watch the program, there are many things worth noting:
- Participants were surprised at many at the new person they saw in the mirror and how they experienced themselves and the other family members. Future plans that a child and parent thought would work well for them, didn’t always make sense when people experienced the dynamics of their new living arrangements and relationships.
- The older participants had the most trouble adjusting to the new life, because A.G.N.E.S. – which makes the person’s body “feel” 30 years older – made it difficult for them to move around easily and see well. As we know, our senior parents’ mobility and senses deteriorate, forcing them to move more slowly, with less balance, and process information with greater difficulty than when they were younger.
- The older participants had more difficulty adjusting to their new “age” because, unlike the real world, they didn’t navigate the 30 years and learn to adjust and compensate as changes take place; they were just thrust into the final stage.
It’s the reverse of the scenario for the frog and boiling hot water pot; If the frog jumps into the pot, he realizes how hot it is and jumps out; but if it heats up slowly, he adjusts to it and doesn’t realize that he’s being cooked. People who live intentionally are responsive to their changing bodies, attitudes, competences, relationships, etc. over time, and make gradual adjustments and compensate enabling us to be better off at the end. People “age brilliantly” by taking charge: they monitor their health and use nutrition, exercise, medicines, aids (e.g., glasses, etc.) to ameliorate some conditions and to prevent or postpone others so they can lead a fulfilling life. (Learn about the active centenarians who live in areas of the world called the Blue Zones; see books by DanBuettner.)
One important note. Parents were asked if they had taken steps to develop a living will, appoint someone to make medical decisions, and planned future estates. One parent said he understood the value and was “in the process of doing so” with all, but didn’t see any urgency because he’s not yet old enough to be at risk. Unfortunately, the pandemic showed us that you never know when you’re going to need to finalize a set of estate planning instruments to protect you and your loved ones. Even though vaccines may help us bring the pandemic to an end, it makes excellent sense to complete your plans as soon as possible. Then review them when circumstances change in people’s lives or significant time (e.g., 10 years) has passed so they put into effect your wishes for yourself and others.
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As you watch the show and follow the course, share with others on Age Brilliantly forums your reactions, questions, etc. so that we can all increase our awareness of the value of seeing our future selves!!!