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transforming the culture of aging

Archive for the ‘Making a Difference’ Category

Christmas 2006

Posted by Jim Selman on 12/25/06

Christmas is just about here, then the ramp up for New Year’s Eve and the post-holiday recovery. I am looking at the Christmas cards we’ve received and thinking about what to say that hasn’t been said a hundred ways already at this time of year. “Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men” seems to pretty much capture the point of Christ’s message, but then it also captures the message of Mohammed, Buddha, a bunch of Hindu Gurus, most Jews, Zoroaster, and just about everyone I know. So why is there so little peace and not a lot of goodwill?

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Winter lights

Posted by Shae Hadden on 12/22/06

Tonight marks the longest night of the year—the time when the prevailing darkness makes us appreciate the presence of daylight all the more. Festivals of light and tree lighting ceremonies abound, traditions meant to dispel the darkness. This holiday season I am very aware of how much ‘light’ is needed in this world… Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by Jim Selman on 12/21/06

I had a great meeting with David Korten yesterday. He is the very inspiring thought-leader I mentioned in a past blog and the author of The Great Turning. His vision of some of the underlying issues that perpetuate the persistence of many of the world’s nastiest problems is brilliant and offers a framework for creating a ‘new story’ of who we are and what’s possible.

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Posted by Jim Selman on 12/15/06

One of the principal notions many newly retired folks consider is volunteering. To be sure, most community agencies will attest there is a large and growing need. Interestingly enough, these same agencies are mostly run by paid full or part-time staff, and the work available to volunteers is mostly limited to administrative chores and fundraising. Volunteers of America, for example, is almost entirely run by career social workers and full-time staff.

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Posted by Jim Selman on 11/30/06


A friend was asking me why I’m so keen to change our conversation about aging—to transform the culture of aging from one of decline to one of possibility. One answer is self-interest, insofar as I am growing older and experiencing more and more of the symptoms of a culture that objectifies me and wants me to follow its prescription for “growing old gracefully” (which means ‘slow down’, step aside, play golf, enjoy my grandchildren, be as comfortable as possible and ‘pass the torch’ to the next generation). While there is nothing wrong with this scenario (and on many days it looks inviting), I want to have a choice and not become marginalized because of my age and our culture’s fixation on youth, speed and passing fashion.

I have spent most of my working life helping organizations deal with cultural issues such as ‘us versus them’ office politics, departmental silos that undermine and destroy any possibility of effective teamwork or accountability, and bureaucratic environments that bog down in endless talk without action or without commitment to implement what everyone agrees needs to be done. What I have learned is that cultures are just people living and working inside a story about ‘the way it is’. The culture is always whatever is considered ‘reasonable’ at a certain point in time. It, in turn, affects what people can see as possible and what actions they can take.

A culture change can only occur when a critical mass of people commit to a ‘new story’ and start living that story every day. What gives power to the status quo and keeps a culture from changing is when people are resisting and fighting against the old story, trying to ‘fix’ or control ‘reality’. When this happens, we ‘get what we resist’, which is why some basic and fundamental changes seem so difficult to bring about. It is more accurate to say we need to create the culture we want and then conventional wisdom and ‘reasonable choices’ give way to new possibilities and actions.

The biggest obstacle to this kind of change is RESIGNATION. Resignation is the state we fall into when we give up—when we lose touch with the possibility of there being any possibility. Being resigned is buying into a story that none of it really matters, we don’t make a difference, why bother trying, and so forth and so on. It isn’t a particularly negative state: it’s more like a ‘deadening’ of our creative sensibilities, curiosity and capacity to engage in productive and creative ‘what if’ conversations. Resignation is not acceptance—acceptance is a choice. No, it is by definition taking on a point of view of ‘I have no choice’, which renders us powerless and victims of our circumstances (including our age).

My real reason for taking on this project to transform the culture of aging is that I observe that, sooner or later, most people become resigned as they grow older. This is unnecessary and unfortunate at the individual level. It’s when a population with the demographic muscle of the Baby Boom becomes resigned in very large numbers that the whole society is impacted in a profoundly negative way. All possibility is sucked out of the system for everyone—young and old. For this reason, I am challenging all of us to keep CREATING POSSIBILITY—regardless of what our cultural stories tell us—and to have the last day of our lives have as much (or more) possibility than the first.

© 2006 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

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An Elder’s View

Posted by Jim Selman on 11/20/06

An essay was recently sent to me about the current quagmire in Iraq that drew parallels between the current conflict and WWII. I am 100% in agreement with the author’s conclusion that America and our people fought a righteous war against Hitler and the Japanese. I have nothing but respect and gratitude for the sacrifices and duty of my parents and their generation. I agree with the author’s idea that the Islamic fundamentalist Jihadists are committed to a campaign of world domination and that their tactics leave little to the imagination in terms of their willingness to destroy Western Civilization at any cost. I also agree that, somehow, it is essential that our leaders do whatever they must to protect our people and to the extent possible, our way of life.

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The Day After

Posted by Jim Selman on 11/9/06

As Dick Gregory used to say when talking about social change, “In a forest fire, there comes a time when the only thing that will save us is a ‘shift in the wind’”. Well, we certainly witnessed a shift in the wind yesterday with the mid-term election results.

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Taking a Stand

Posted by Jim Selman on 11/6/06

carole1.jpgMy friend Carole is a crusader. About 25 years ago, she had a distant relative die in a nursing home. When she looked into it, she found that the doctor who looked after the patients wasn’t licensed, rarely made rounds, the State inspectors overlooked or didn’t look at dozens of flagrant violations of regulations, and there was a cozy relationship between the healthcare industry, government and nursing home operators—lots of folks were making lots of money from nursing homes at the expense and well-being of those in their care. She took a stand to do something about it. She created an organization called FATE (Foundation Aiding the Elderly) to fight abuse of the elderly. You can learn more about it or offer some support at FATE’s website.

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Posted by Jim Selman on 11/3/06

Was talking to a friend the other night and she came up with one of those semi-profound things that sticks in your head and gets more and more interesting the more you think about it. She said: “Without limits in life, you have nothing”.

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Life Coaching

Posted by Jim Selman on 10/24/06

man-reading_ba.jpgCrabby Old Lady took a swipe at life coaches yesterday. I commented to her that the same might be said of lawyers, heath care providers and financial counselors. The fact is there are many opportunistic and unqualified people calling themselves coaches. While I can agree with her concern, I cannot let her sweeping generalization impune the work of thousands of committed and competent individuals.

What I want to point out is that, as an emerging field and profession, coaching is attempting to address the question of how do you empower people to ‘break through’ their habits and patterns and CREATE their own future as distinct from simply coping with circumstances and living in their comfort zone.

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