What I Learned from Photographing Over 5,000 Seniors
Here are the top three nuggets of wisdom we regularly hear from older adults.
Hey everyone! Tom just got back to Savannah on Friday from a three-day shoot in Chicago with Joe & Bella. Joe & Bella is a fashion company that manufactures adaptive clothing that caters to seniors. Their mission: “to bring more dignity, joy, and ease to the lives of older adults and those who care for them and – in doing so – helping older adults rediscover and express their identities through what they wear.”
Joe & Bella wanted to go for authenticity on this shoot. “Senior” models are often not very senior at all, and rarely do they require the type of adaptive clothing Joe & Bella makes. So, we tried something new and used actual residents from one of Tom’s long-time senior living clients in the area instead, all of whom are 80-years-old or older.
As we said in our first newsletter, Tom loves talking to people on shoots, especially older adults. After almost two decades of working with this population, he’s been gifted with a lot of shared wisdom, and this past week is no exception. The same few things come up time and again. Today we’d like to distill those things down and share them with you.
Here are the top three pieces of advice we’ve heard from talking to over 5,000 seniors:
Appreciate your mobility. Today. Out of the seniors Tom just photographed in Chicago, one 88-year-old could get up and down from the floor with complete ease, three of them walked well, one walked with a cane, three walked with walkers, and the remaining three were in wheelchairs. There are many, many factors that contribute to mobility issues in age, and we don’t know what the future has in store for any of us. So no matter how old you are, if you have always wanted to try surfing and are still physically capable of it, go. If you love shooting hoops but stopped making the time for it–shoot hoops. It doesn’t even have to be exercise, per say. Travel. Get on the ground and play with your kids and grandkids and pets. Stretch. Garden. Dance. Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “Today is the oldest you've ever been, and the youngest you'll ever be again.” Use that body before you lose that body, folks.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. We know, you’ve all heard this one. We’ve seen the metaphor about filling our jar (life) with rocks, pebbles and sand (big and small things) in the right order. But it’s real, and every reminder is a good reminder. If you’ve never done a values assessment, or you haven’t done one recently, take a few minutes and give it a shot. We hear over and over again from seniors that it is essential to stop and actually think about what truly matters to you. Then, go on to live with intention, in accordance with your values, putting the things that matter to you first, whatever those things may be (they may not be what you think!)--and forget the rest.
It’s not too late. Do the thing. You know what we’re talking about. THAT thing. Okay, okay, the two of us are old enough already to know that no one gets through life without a few regrets, and of course sometimes it actually is too late to go back and do things differently. But many of your dreams are achievable at any age. Remember Merle Phillips from our first Age and Prosper newsletter who authored her first book at age 72? And look at the most recent Academy Awards on March 12, after which the media was buzzing about the huge wins of “comeback” actors Brendan Frasier and Ke Huy Quan–not to mention Michelle Yeoh’s inspiring speech in which she stated, truthfully, “Ladies, never let anyone tell you you are past your prime.” Did you know that Vera Wang was a figure skater and journalist before turning to fashion design at age 40? Julia Child published her first cookbook at 50. Many massively successful people didn’t launch their careers until midlife or later. Beyond achieving fame and fortune, true success is about fulfilling your dreams, pursuing your purpose. Write the book. Take the class. Make the change. It’s not too late.
Thanks for reading, friends. Age well and prosper. We’ll catch you next week.
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