"Our Thoughts on Aging" Interview Project: An Update

It’s been more than a year of interviews and I wanted to share some points of interest that I’ve noticed and hope will be of interest to you too! Here are 5 that I’ve come away with thus far:

1. Almost immediately I began to notice that when I asked what influenced interviewees’ perceptions of aging, several people talked about one or both of their parents. So I began to ask quite specifically how parents influenced attitudes and beliefs about aging. The responses have been varied and fascinating.

You may want to consider how your parent(s) or other significant persons influenced your beliefs about aging and your concept of “old”. Correspondingly how you experience and talk about aging may influence your children and other young(er) people, particularly those who are close to you.

2. This interview process is having a greater positive impact for interviewees than I could have imagined or hoped for - with their kids, their siblings, their parents, their grandchildren, their partner/spouse, and especially themselves. It seems to be offering people an opportunity to reflect, share and talk about topics that they might not have otherwise done.

Our beliefs about death and dying are very personal, unique and sacred and generally are not discussed. At first it felt awkward for me to inquire about them. However once I asked, once they began to talk, it became easier and afforded them a sense of freedom to express their concerns, fears, hopes, experiences with or about death. In fact, a few people told me afterwards - once the tape recording was off, of course - that they felt relieved to have had a chance to talk about it.

3. This one has been out there for a while and I’ll reiterate it - the notion of “old” is complex. Many people don’t “feel old” and don’t describe themselves as old, no matter their age. I wonder what it is about “old” that repels us from wanting to be described as such or as an elder? Any thoughts or ideas, anyone?

4. When I began this project it was with the intention of completing 100 interviews. After the second or third one, it dawned on me that there might be, and I hope there will be, a rippling effect of this project as more people talk about these ideas. Just imagine the rippling effect of 100 people talking about these big questions and issues - and hopefully the dialogues will continue to ripple out into the world.

5. Several people responded to questions about their death and dying in what they felt were obvious answers -  to die quickly and painlessly. To make it a bit more complex, I will now change the questions slightly and ask: Which do you fear more - dying or death? And which arouses more fear - your own death or the death of someone you love? How about you - how would you answer those questions?

Of course, I'm always looking for more people to participate so how about You? Are you ready or do you know someone in your network who might be interested? Please let me know!