Category Archives for Positive Aging

The Paradox of Aging with John Leland

What can we all learn about living better from people who have lived long enough to know something about life? John Leland, an award-winning New York Times reporter, spent a year following six people over age 85, expecting to write about the hardships of growing old. Instead, he got a wealth of lessons that surprised him. In a culture that worships youth, older people are more content, less stressed, and better able to deal with loss than younger people. The good news about old age, as Leland wrote in his book Happiness is a Choice You Make: Lessons From a Year Among the Oldest Old, a New York Times bestseller, is that there is good news of old age.

The answer came from an unexpected place: from the lives of six people age 85 and up. He expected them to educate him in the hardships of old age. Instead, they taught him lessons of resilience, gratitude, purpose, and perspective that apply to people of any age. All had lost something – spouses, mobility, their keen eyesight or hearing. But none had lost everything. And they defined their lives by the things they could still do, not by what they had lost.

Sociologists call this the “paradox of aging.” As much as our culture obsesses over youth, older people are more content with their lives than young adults. They’re less stressed, less afraid of death, better able to manage whatever difficulties come their way – even when their lives are very, very hard. The good news about old age is that there is good news. And the better news is that we can all learn from our elders’ wisdom and experience. Whatever your age, it’s not too late to learn to think like an old person.

In this program, you’ll learn their strategies for cultivating:

  • resilience
  • gratitude
  • interdependence rather than independence
  • purpose
  • acceptance, including accepting mortality

All the details of our upcoming call are below:

Date: Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Time: 12:00 noon Eastern (9:00 am Pacific, 10 AM Mountain, 11 am Central, and 6 AM Hawaiian)
Topic: The Paradox of Aging: Why People Are Happier as They Age
Speaker: John Leland, NY Times journalist and author

About John Leland The Paradox of Aging with John Leland

John Leland is a reporter at the New York Times, where he wrote a year-long series following six people age 85 and up, which became the basis for his new book, Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old,  a New York Times bestseller. Before joining the Times in 2000, he was a senior editor at Newsweek and editor-in-chief of Details magazine.

To join the call: Please register at 

Hacking Longevity with Lori Bitter

Based on foundational research in 2018 with the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers and Gen X, Lori Bitter wanted to understand if people are embracing the idea of a 100-year life and if they are, what they are doing to get there. It was a massive project – focus groups, national survey of 3000+ respondents, and personal interviews on new research platform. In her research, she uncovered key motivational differences between the generations.

She just launched her 2019 study looking at five key shifts that emerged from the 2018 work, and she will be sharing these in this month’s program:

  • Caregiving
  • Grandparenting
  • Aging Single
  • Career Encoring
  • Change of Living Situation

All the details of our upcoming call are below:

Date: Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Time: 12:00 noon Eastern (9:00 am Pacific, 10 AM Mountain, 11 am Central, and 6 AM Hawaiian)
Topic: Hacking Longevity: How 3 Generations Over 50 are Thinking About a 100-Year Life
Speaker: Lori K. Bitter, a seasoned trend analyst in the field of aging who provides strategic consulting, research and development for companies seeking to engage with mature consumers

About Lori Bitter

Lori K. Bitter provides strategic consulting, research and development for companies seeking to engage with mature consumers at The Business of Aging. Her recent research, Hacking Longevity, sponsored by AARP and Proctor & Gamble, has just launched its second study on key life shifts in later life. Lori was named a Next Avenue Influencer in Aging. Her book, The Grandparent Economy, is a National Mature Media Award winner. She serves as co-producer of What’s Next Boomer Business Summit and The Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit. Lori has more than 30 years of advertising, public relations and strategic planning experience. She serves on the advisory board of several start-ups and nonprofits.

A sought-after speaker, Lori has presented research, trends and analysis about mature consumers and the opportunity of the longevity marketplace to more than 200 conferences and events in the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe. She has been featured in Forbes and Entrepreneur’s 100 to Watch and appeared on CNBC.

Aging in the 21st Century Workforce with Dr. Gillian Leithman

In her talk on the work motivation of mature workers, Dr. Gill will discuss what older workers want out of work as they transition into the second half of life. Based on her research, which is part of her Ph.D. thesis, she will discuss how people determine whether they should continue to work beyond age 65 or retire. She’ll also focus on the importance of achievement as people age. Lastly, Dr. Gill will share her findings regarding “generativity”, it’s importance for an organization’s competitive advantage, and why it requires a work environment that nurtures and values expertise.

From this presentation you’ll learn:

  • What the number 65 signifies to older workers
  • Why achievement still matters, and to whom
  • About “generativity”: the corporate “sweet spot” for aging workers and their organizations

Gillian Leithman, Ph.D. is a corporate trainer specializing in health and wellness seminars and workshops. Gillian has facilitated programs for some  of Canada’s premiere businesses and organizations such as Bell Canada, Air Canada, TD Canada Trust, Federal Express, Novartis, Telus, Hollis Wealth, HSBC, the RCMP and Exxon Mobil.

Dr. Leithman is best known for her pre-retirement seminars, which focus on the psychological and social aspects of retirement planning to ensure a smooth and fulfilling transition. When she is not facilitating seminars, she teaches in the faculty of management at the John Molson School of Business, where she is an Assistant Professor. Her research focus encompasses the career motivation of older workers, the retirement transition process, age-friendly workplace and knowledge sharing cultures.

Her research has been featured at the Canadian Psychological Association, the Ontario and Canadian Gerontological Associations, The Canadian Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship and she has received the Best Paper Award from the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada twice. She has also been featured in the Montreal Gazette, Reader’s Digest, and the National Post and been a guest on the Tommy Schnurmacher radio show and on CBC.

Dr. Leithman is the founder of Rewire to Retire™ and Life Skills Toolbox™.

For the replay, visit

Fast Time and the Aging Mind: In Support of Life-Long Learning

senior man reading in libraryIf you discovered that challenging yourself and keeping a steep “learning curve” while you were aging would help you slow down your sense of time passing too quickly,would it influence you to want to learn more? I believe in life-long learning anyway, but the article discussed below has actually strengthened my resolve to continue to challenge myself and learn. Part of my interest in life-long learning is the”use it or lose it” notion of exercising our brain, but now it also seems that it can help modify our sense of time passing so quickly.

I recommend an article from July 21, 2013 in the NY Times by Dr. Richard A. Friedman (see link below.) Dr. Friedman is a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical Center. So often we hear people talk about our perception that time passes more quickly as we age. I know for myself, I feel like I “blinked three times” and my son was suddenly older, I’m older and each season and year seems to fly by, often at what feels like a startling rate. I find my “anxious self” worrying that if it keeps going this fast, I may not be here for some of the milestones that are so important to me. Does this resonate for you?

However, even though this is a sense so many of us view as “a truth,” it’s hard to prove experimentally. This notion is what Dr. Friedman calls a “cognitive illusion.” He cites studies in Germany, France and the US. There are many non-age related factors that seem to influence our perception of time such as emotions, attention and memory. As he says, “to accurately gauge the passage of time required to accomplish a given task, you have to be able to focus and remember a sequence of information.which is why this is difficult for someone with ADD. On the whole most of us perceive short intervals of time similarly, regardless of our age.” “Why then,” he asks, “do older people look back at long stretches of their lives and feel it’s a race to the finish?” Dr. Friedman posits that our sense of time is a “cognitive illusion” and there are ways to understand it and ways to slow down “the velocity of time.”

He asks the question “Does learning new things slow our internal sense of time?” It’s fascinating to think about some of the studies he’s mentioned as well and some examples of the different sense of time from childhood through aging. He suggests we think back to what it was like when we were learning something for the first time-for example, learning to ride a bike, how to walk home from school, how to swim or drive a car. I had an interesting experience recently at a parent’s class for driver’s education for teenagers. I realized that I no longer separated the components necessary to learn to drive. I took it all for granted, but needed to break the steps down into manageable learning sequences to be helpful to my son.

This experience seemed to support Friedman’s comment that “It takes time to learn new tasks and to encode them in your memory. When you’re learning about the world for the first time, you are forming a fairly steady stream of new memories or events, places and people. When, as an adult, you look back at your childhood experiences, they appear to unfold in slow motion probably because the sheer number of them gives you the impression that they must have taken forever to accomplish.” As I recall, it seemed to have taken forever for me to learn to feel confident and competent driving, and now I take it for granted. I also recall more recently when I was trying to learn a new language (Hebrew) for my adult Bat Mitzvah, time slowed down since the learning curve was so steep for me. Friedman suggests this is merely as illusion of the ways adults understand the past when they look through “the telescope of lost time.”

The important point that he makes (which is not an illusion) is that “almost all of us faced far steeper learning curves when we were young. Most adults do not explore and learn about the world the way they did when they were young: adult life lacks the constant discovery and endless novelty of childhood.” “Studies have shown that the greater the cognitive demands of a task, the longer its duration is perceived to be.”Friedman offered an example of his father who, after he retired, read about everything from astronomy to natural history, travel and gardening. He realized his father never commented on how fast or slow his life seemed to be going. He was constantly learning, always alive to new ideas and experience. Perhaps this keeps us from noticing that time is passing.

He also wonders if it really matter that we, as older adults, have an illusion about time speeding up? He states, though, that “It matters because the distortion signals that we might squeeze more out of life.” “It’s simple,” he asserts, “if you want time to slow down, become a student again. Learn something that requires sustained effort; do something novel. Put down the thriller on the beach and read something about a new theory. Take a new route to work or your house, vacation at an unknown spot-and take your sweet time about it.”

Part of the take away for me is that by learning new and novel things as we age may open us to being able to enjoy doing so and savoring our new learning and accomplishments, rather than feeling the anxiety that time is passing so quickly that “I have to do everything yesterday.” It can be an urgency that, to some degree, energizes us, but also can immobilize us with anxiety and sadness. It’s easy to lose perspective and feel sadness that time is passing so quickly and “I won’t be here to do or see such and such.”

I prefer the idea that through a philosophy of life-long learning we can actually slow down our perception of the fast pace of time, keep our brain stimulated and functioning well and enjoy the approaching years rather than dread their passing so quickly that we go through the motions of doing new things-but perhaps not enjoying them-but merely trying to fend off “the grim reaper.” We really do need to stop and “smell the roses” and savor the moment, but also, in an active way, up our learning curve and perhaps, by being and doing new things, actually control some of this “cognitive illusion/ distortion” about the passage of time.

Read the article here.

Summertime…and the living is easy

child and sunflowerIt’s a great song title-but is it true? Certainly the weather as well as other events locally and around the world has been a challenge for many people! I hope you’ve all been well and safe. Are you able to slow down a little during July and August? I hope so. I re-read my blog from this time last year and realized it has some good advice, so decided to include a few of the suggestions.

As I wrote last year, summer is so short and passes very quickly. Have you made any plans together? Or alone? It’s hopefully a time for relaxation, celebration, fun and perhaps also a time for “giving back.” I hope all of you will have time to enjoy it-together as a couple as well as with family and friends. If you’re not “on the same page” with your partner regarding planning, it can be a good time to set up some goals and action steps. For example, each of you could list one or two things you’d like to do this summer. It might be fun if each of you takes the initiative to plan an activity for both of you. Look at the calendar and pick out two dates-you can plan one and your partner another. This is part of what we refer to as “funwork” in our book. Other ideas could be as simple as taking a nice walk, going for a bike ride, planning a pot luck dinner with friends, watching a movie and spending time talking about it, picking a book to read and creating a “book group” date with other couples, going on a day trip or some other travel you might enjoy or volunteering in your own community or elsewhere. None of these activities need to be “expensive” activities.

I realized that I also celebrated July 4th as I did last year. I’m part of an inter-generational neighborhood/community. For many of us, when our kids were younger we had 4th of July celebrations-and “older neighbors” (with or without children) were often part of it. We’re now the “older neighbors” and last year decided to create a celebration for the families with younger children. It was so much fun that we repeated it again this year and have agreed it will be a yearly “tradition.” We started the day with coffee, juice and donuts. The kids dressed up and also decorated their bicycles and pets. The oldest community member (this year in his 90’s) brought his bugle and played it. One of the Veterans in the community dressed in his Navy ” dress outfit” and read from the Declaration of Independence. We made copies of patriotic songs and all sang together. The children and pets then had a mini-parade in the neighborhood.

It may sound a bit “corny” – but it was great fun and everyone looked forward to it-from young to old. After the parade we had relay races and other activities for the children-potato sack races, carrying an egg on a spoon, balancing a glass of water on a tray, etc. This year we also had some swim relay races in the neighborhood pool for the slightly older children and later a game of kickball. Whether or not you have children or grandchildren- community building is good for all of us! Whether you do this next July 4th, or think ahead and modify it for Labor Day or just for a summer day, I think you’ll find it a great way to bring people in your community together. Enjoy, appreciate, savor and celebrate each other and each day! Summertime.. let’s make living a bit easier by connecting with each other and building community!

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