Aging with Attitude: Inclined Elders with Ramona Oliver

Ramona Oliver is a vibrant, beautiful soul and septugenarian who is a passionate spokeswoman and advocate of positive aging.  The possibility of living for nine, ten or more decades raises a uniquely twenty-first-century question: What are we going to do with our supersized lives?  Having reinvented herself several times in her professional career Ramona is intensely bringing awareness to the necessity to remove “old” thinking about aging and replace it with a current understanding of how people are really living their lives.

Meet Ramona Oliver:

Formerly, Ramona’s professional career included being a passionate educator with roles as a human resource manager/director, career coach and director of outreach. She championed the professional development of employees and led an award-winning team that designed and implemented a leadership program. In addition, she launched a workforce readiness program and promoted the adult undergraduate and graduate programs to older adults in the Austin, TX community.

Today she continues that role in another capacity and serves as an advocate of positive aging. Rather than accepting a mindset of decline, Ramona is passionate about living life with an attitude of Incline. Her book, INCLINED ELDERS: How to rebrand aging for self and society has recently been published. 

In this episode:

In her mid-sixties Ramona Oliver became increasingly aware that while she and her circle of friends were continuing to live meaningful and purposeful lives, so many other older adults had bought into society’s negative connotation about aging and that it’s all about decline and over-the-hill.  She began to research science surrounding positive aging – including Positive Psychology, Anthropology, and Sociology and became engrossed in the topic and from there decided to write a book.

During the process of her research she interviewed over 50 men and women from various ethnicities ranging in age from 40-100. She found that many people were embracing their age and had exceptional tips and strategies they had developed to ensure they were living a full and happy life.  Stories such as:

  • At 94 Herb “The Eternal Incliner” moved with his wife to an independent living community. On entering the dining room their first night, Herb looked around the room and declared to his wife, “Oh, my God! There’s nothing but old people here!” Ramona attended Herb’s 100th birthday last year and he shared that he’s still living a life of Incline.
  • Galen “The Magician” shared his “magic illusion” philosophy of life. He doesn’t view it as a time of decline. His philosophy is carpe vitam or “seize life” rather than simply carpe diem or “seize the day.” At 70, his second “career” is as a magician and he’s having a ball!
  • The Amazing Miss Lee shares her “recipe for living to 95 and beyond” – highlights include having a positive attitude and keeping the inner child alive.
  • Raymond “tunes out” the negative talk of decliners and follows the philosophy of “not letting the old man in.” An avid outdoorsman, Raymond shared that while he doesn’t climb mountains anymore, he still enjoys hiking around them. It’s simply a matter of modification.

While often the media and advertising portray aging as a DECLINE in life, the real truth is, in fact that aging is no longer considered a life of doom-and-gloom.  However, according to a recent AARP Disrupt Aging Survey, 38% of the people voiced a negative outlook on aging. The main reason? They have a perception that society is driven by youth and as people age, they are believed to contribute less to their communities, their country and the world.

Another survey of young adults conducted in the UK indicated they believe:

  • There isn’t any way to escape dementia as you age
  • It’s normal to be unhappy and depressed when you are old
  • Older people can never be thought of as attractive

To add fuel to this mentality and better understand the limiting mindset that people fall into, Ramona cites the three “Calamitous C’s” of complacency, conventionality and compliance as the primary conditions of why people do not have the courage to go after their dreams after a certain age.  

Very often, people settle in life and have an underlying fear of change and many people by a certain age are conditioned to adhere to customs, rules and procedures.  And lastly, many people buy into the media and society’s propaganda about aging.

In order to shift this thinking and not be sucked in by the negative talk on aging, Ramona recommends replacing the three “Calamitous C’s” with three positive “Constructive Cs” which are change, curiosity and courage.

Embracing change and looking at life with a keener sense of curiosity will lead to living with increased courage.  Rather than focus on fear, focus on taking action and make a commitment to something that inspires you. And foremost, stop talking about aging as if it is synonymous with a mindset of decline.

Re-evaluating our existing life model it is apparent that people are living almost twice as long as they were in the early 1900’s and that there is a need for a new life course to live the highest quality of life.

Ramona believes there is clearly a paradigm shift in progress and it’s not all about living decrepit old lives. It’s about living in Incline mode and staying active. Change needs to occur at a grassroots level and people need to make a conscious choice to commit to living a purposeful life.

Citing the new Stanford Center on Longevity’s New Map of Life.

“Changes are occurring worldwide as fertility rates decline and there is a significant increase in human longevity through technology and medicine. 20 to 30 years have been added to previous life spans for many and people born today have a 50% chance to live to 100 and beyond.”

As people live longer society needs to reevaluate our existing life model as it evolved for lives that were half as long.  

Our traditional three-stages of life – education, work, family and retirement – is outdated and a new life course is required to provide greater flexibility and multiple stages.

A new model is needed that will support people to live high-quality lives for 100 years or more, including:

  • New models for education, including lifelong learning
  • A redesign of how we work
  • New policies for healthcare, housing, the environment
  • More intergenerational communities
  • Many groups of forward-thinking individuals are studying ways to do this. One such group is the Stanford Center on Longevity. The aim is to develop recommendations for governments, employers, businesses, parents, and policymakers. This initiative is called a “New Map of Life” and it’s worth following its progress.

Practical tips we can introduce into our lives immediately include practicing gratitude which increases your resilience levels and gives you purpose, staying playful and maintain connections within your community.

As we age make the conscious choice to embrace an attitude of Incline and not succumb to society’s prevailing mindset of “decline.”  Keep physically and mentally active and if you are young, cultivate relationships with older adults which will begin laying the groundwork to ensure a legacy of embracing an attitude of positive aging.

Links & References: 

Published Books:  Inclined Elders: How to rebrand aging for self and society

Amazon

BookBaby

Stanford Center on Longevity’s New Map of Life

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