We recently sat down with five 90+-year-olds and asked them about the term “successful aging.” Do they like the term, does it apply to them, or do they find it odd? Before we met, I asked them to think about the term “successful aging” to have time to process the term and see how it applies to their lives.

All of them agreed that the term was “just OK.” The group quickly emphasized that successful aging was first and foremost dependent on their physical and mental functioning. They believe that living with chronic disease, losing a spouse and close friends, and losing independence (having to rely on other people) are factors that affect their ability to “age successfully.”

All five participants quickly rebounded from what they find challenging about aging to what they find positive. They all emphasized social participation, interaction with other people, life satisfaction, and personal growth. Here are a few of their comments:

Social Participation: “You can’t be isolated; you have to force yourself to find new friends. Just like when you were the new kid on the block or the new kid at school, you must work on those friendships. We all need great friendships.”

Acceptance of Other People: “I’ve heard other residents say that they don’t participate in a particular activity or program because “Betty or Bob” does, and I feel sad for that resident. At this time in our lives, we have to accept ourselves as we are and do the same for other people.”

Life Satisfaction: “There is nothing we can do to change the past; we have to accept the last 90 years and move forward. “

Personal Growth: “I have a renewed sense of curiosity and learning since I started attending the weekly lifelong learning program. It surprises me when I see something in the newspaper that we talked about in class. My family reads all of the books that we read in class. My granddaughter sets up a family Zoom call so we can talk about the book. None of the people in my age group do anything like that.”

In conclusion, there was one final thought they were all in agreement with: “The ability to age successfully is up to the individual. It’s all how you look at life and what you do with your life while you are still living.” Truer words were never spoken!

Learn more about the curriculum options offered to senior community centers by visiting Phoenix-based ALLE Learning™ at www.alle-learning.com, emailing us info@alle-learning.com, or calling us at (800) 990-9806. Learn about our related companies that focus on community-based memory care, EngAGE EnCOURAGE,™ or our home-based classes for caregivers, Engaging at Home.