Monday, August 12, 2019

Age is MORE Than Just a Number

You've heard the old saying, "Age ain't nothing but a number." Some people love to use the phrase to remind older folks that as long as we remain young in spirit our birth years are irrelevant.  I beg to differ because I've got the aches and pains that come with growing older but that's beside the point.

This blog post is about the importance and beauty of aging and the impact we can have on a life with all of our knowledge and wisdom.  

I spent six weeks of my summer tutoring a group of young people who are transitioning from public to private middle school this Fall.  I was one of six tutors---the majority of us over the age of 60.

Picture represents 200+ years of education, knowledge, experience, and wisdom.  

Recently, we got together to re-cap our tutoring sessions with the students.  As I sat and listened to the others, I realized just how different we were in our approaches.  Our takeaways from the sessions explained quite a bit about our backgrounds and experiences in dealing with minority students.  As the only black tutor in the group, I had a much easier time dealing with each child.  Perhaps because they saw me as a "grandmother figure" and everyone respects their grandma!  I do believe all of the tutors meant well, despite their limited exposure, because they saw it as an opportunity to "give back."  

A study conducted several years ago at the University of Pittsburgh found that older people who donate their free time benefit greatly by doing so.  The research, involving 200 volunteers age 50 and over, indicated that the volunteers reported significant improvements in their mental health, along with other socio-emotional benefits ranging from a greater feeling of productivity to increased social activity to an overall sense that their life had improved.

According to research by Corporation for National and Community Service, older adults who volunteer can benefit with lower rates of depression,increased energy and stamina, improved cognitive function, and increased self-esteem.

What I've personally discovered is growing older has given me a broader perspective of how I can use my knowledge, expertise and wisdom to make a difference in the lives of our future generations.  Tutoring has given me opportunities to share (and listen to) different points of view, come of with creative and challenging ways of learning, and to look for the values and gifts in each child.  More importantly, it has given me joy!  

If someone had asked me 30 years ago what I thought I would be doing at the age of 62, I'm not really sure what my answer would've been.  But I can tell you now that I see the importance, beauty, and wisdom of aging every time I look in my mirror.  

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, I used everything you gave me." ~ Erma Bombeck

 Comment from one of the students:  
"One of the outstanding tutors was Ms. Beverly because she has a great knowledge about what she is doing.  And if we didn’t understand the work, she encouraged the children and showed that she believed in them."

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