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Has there ever been a better time to be an older adult? Lifespans have increased significantly in the 21st century and older adults report high levels of happiness. But there are major challenges an aging population poses – and faces – at the societal, governmental, legal and individual levels. MT Connolly, the former head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative, discusses her new book The Measure of Our Age: Navigating Care, Safety, Money and Meaning Later in Life and ways of improving life for older adults at those different levels.
MT Connolly joins us from Washington, DC.
MT Connolly, a leading national expert on elder justice, was awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant for her work shaping research, policy and practice. She was founding head of DOJ’s Elder Justice Initiative, architect of the federal Elder Justice Act, and lead author of the Elder Justice Roadmap, setting priorities for the field. That work, and her research for “The Measure of Our Age: Navigating Care, Safety, Money and Meaning Later in Life,” led her to co-design teams that provide more holistic, hopeful, and evidence-based services aimed to reduce trouble and enhance connection as we age, like the innovative “RISE” program. First pilot-tested in Maine, and now expanding elsewhere, RISE services are “person-centered” and can include support for caregivers and others.
MT grew up in Rochester, Minnesota and the Northwoods of Wisconsin, graduated from Stanford and Northeastern University School of Law, is adjunct faculty at USC’s Davis School of Gerontology, and lives in Washington, DC.
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“Then there’s aging as an opportunity. The late chapters of life has been a good opportunity for expanded creativity and curiosity. And I think we really underestimate old age in this respect, because there is so much we can do. And recent article by David Brooks in the Atlantic focusing on Encore Time focused on this as well. And I think that it’s a spectacular time to do something new, to try something new that can also be tremendously enriching. There’s the power of awe and transformation. Life is, and time is transformation. We’re always changing. But also if we focus on what we think is beautiful, what is transcendent? And that’s different for everybody. It might be a night sky for somebody. For another person, it might be a religious practice. For another person, it might be meditation, or a trip to the Grand Canyon. It’s different for everybody, but it’s feeling like we’re part of something bigger, like this great flow of humanity, but also the universe. We’re the tiny little specks in the universe. And ironically, really embracing that and feeling that can change our existence.”
On Time and Meaning
“…the sacred gift of time is the greatest upside of aging. A lot of people are deprived of that gift historically, and in our own time. The other way that I think about the upsides is that what I’ve tried to do both in my writing and in my own life is to shift the frame of satisfaction in living from external to internal. We need to really find in ourselves and strive to find meaning in the time we have. And there are several different ways of doing that, but really what we pay attention to is what shapes our existence. And so if we take more control over that and give more thought to how we spend our time we’ll be happier people and often also healthier people.”
On Isolation and Intergenerational Contact
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About Your Podcast Host
Joe Casey is an executive coach who also helps people design their next life after their primary career and create their version of The Multipurpose Retirement.™ He created his own next chapter after a twenty-six-year career at Merrill Lynch, where he was Senior Vice President and Head of HR for Global Markets & Investment Banking. Today, in addition to his work with clients, Joe hosts The Retirement Wisdom Podcast, which thanks to his guests and loyal listeners, ranks in the top 1 % globally in popularity by Listen Notes. Business Insider has recognized him as one of 23 innovative coaches who are making a difference. He’s the author of Win the Retirement Game: How to Outsmart the 9 Forces Trying to Steal Your Joy.