My name is Anna Dominguez and I am a fourth year at UCSD majoring in Pharmacological Chemistry with a Health Care Social Issues minor. What initially interested me in the Life Course Scholars program was the idea of giving back to a community and population close to my heart. Having both my parents (in addition to many aunts and uncles) in their late 60’s to 70’s, I find myself constantly surrounded by an older generation at home. While also being the daughter of immigrant parents from the Philippines, I thought it would be interesting to be able to compare and contrast different viewpoints of aging throughout different cultures. In addition, I would also be able to share the experiences that I gain from the program with my own community and those closest to me at home. In these past few weeks, one thing that I have found about working with the elderly population is that it always comes with lots of wisdom and life lessons gained and I can’t wait to share these tidbits of wisdom and knowledge with you all through these blogs!
As already mentioned by my fellow life course scholars, we started out this program with a journaling exercise of where we saw ourselves at 80. This exercise was a tough one. Although as college students, we often get asked the questions of “Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, or even 20 years,” never have I ever stopped to think where I would see myself in 60 years. I didn’t know where to start. I first thought of location--where would I want to live? and with whom? I imagined myself growing old and living with a significant other in a home we’ve shared many memories in-- something along the lines of Mr. and Mrs. Fredrickson of the movie Up. Then I thought of what I would want to be doing with all the free time on my hands as a retiree. Since I am constantly worrying about not doing enough with my time now as a college student, I had no doubt I would feel the same worry when I am 80. I modeled what I wanted to be at 80 after one of my aunts who has been retired for 10 years but still lives an active, healthy lifestyle. Her jam-packed days consist of helping out at the local church, gardening at a community garden, walking her two dachsunds everyday around the neighborhood, and taking senior ukulele classes. She goes to show that learning and staying active should never stop when you retire-- it is merely is a life-long activity and process that keeps our own selves happy and healthy. There is so much to be learned and so much to do, so why ever stop? I then came to a realization that the biggest determinant of whether or not I would be able to do all of these activities at 80 was was my health. Health is everything. When I am 80, I hope to be living a healthy lifestyle in a world where 80 may be the new “30”. Overall, this exercise really opened my eyes to how the aging process works—it’s a continuum, it’s a life course in its entirety, and there is so much to learn from it along the way.
In addition to learning so much from these exercises, I’ve learned so much from the elder-partners we’ve had the fortunate opportunity to meet and speak to over the past few weeks. By being able to talk to a wide range elderly partners from the multiple PACE sites and the Gary and Mary West Senior Center, I’ve personally observed that although each individual had their own respective “life story” to tell, none of their stories were nowhere near being done, whether they were in their late 60’s or early 90’s. Many of these elderly folks still had goals and aspirations that they still wanted to accomplish. This served as a testament to the idea that no matter how old you get, you’re never too old create new “life goals”. For example, one elderly women in her mid-70s at the Gary and Mary West Senior Center shared with me that one of her personal goals was to start a senior “make a wish” foundation to grant each senior a trip to wherever they would like. Her goal was to go to travel to Washington DC and see a poetry piece of hers she claimed to be up at the National Museum. Another individual in her late 60’s shared with me that she has been working on an article to be published in Essence magazine regarding her struggle as an African American woman having to “prove herself” in many male-dominated jobs in the course of her working career. Another elderly man in his late 60’s from PACE had goals of staying as active as he can both mentally and physically regardless of his disability after having had one leg amputated and struggles with PTSD. Although many of these goals are vary depending on each individual, talking to each of these people made me realize that having something to strive for is what keeps us all living. It doesn’t matter if we’re 5 or 95. One secret to healthy aging is to keep on aiming for the short term and long term goals we all have in life. It’s what makes us who we are and makes for some incredible stories to tell afterwards once those goals are accomplished. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed the past few weeks and love the group of people I am able to share all these experiences with every Friday. I can’t wait for what the next few weeks and next quarter has in store!