Attending the Seventh Annual International Conference on Positive Aging as a young woman in my 20s certainly gives me a different perspective on the content discussed. Before discussing the conference, I feel I must share my ever evolving view on aging. When I first moved to Sarasota five and a half years ago, I was shocked by the effect it had on my world view. While I have always been a Florida native and experienced a somewhat older demographic, Sarasota was different. At first I was frustrated with slower drivers and a lacking youth visibility. Later on, the older majority grew on me. My heightened awareness of older adults who continued their education by attending New Music New College or New Topics New College and older adults with a thriving social life who carpool together around town helped me understand that “youthfulness” is within your heart and lasts as long as you feed it.
My favorite presentation of the conference was the Monday morning keynote speaker, Victor Strecher, PhD, Director of Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship, University of Michigan School of Public Health. His talk focused on his own fascination with purpose as a driver for changing behavior and giving life meaning. What truly made his talk powerful were the hard facts that support his research in the importance of having a purpose in life. Many studies have shown that chronic diseases are much lower for those people who have a purpose in life. Additionally, people with a strong meaning in life are happier, healthier, and live longer. The powerpoint that Dr. Strecher used was full of fun animations that were obviously designed specifically for his talk. It was not until the end when he disclosed the origin of these animations, his book – On Purpose. After his in depth research on purpose in which he discovered the real power of purpose, he wanted to spread the knowledge in an accessible media, so he chose to publish a graphic novel. I was very moved by this discussion but please do not take my word for it. Check out his website, download his free app that helps you track your progress on your purposeful goals! I already purchased his novel and plan to use the app for my own goals.
Given my existing support of the positive aging movement and my refreshed viewpoint of keeping in mind ones purpose in life, I feel a heightened sense of connection with all generations of Sarasota County. As a young adult, I am just starting to live my dreams and share my vision of a better world. Older adults in our area have either lived a life with great purpose or just finding that truly meaningful purpose in life. Whether we are continuing to reach our goals or redefining them, we all have different reasons for getting up each day and each reason is important! I hope that Victor Strecher’s message will reach many people. Live every day with purpose and you will likely find you are happier, healthier and more fulfilled.