By Nancy Weinbeck, Director of Residential Operations
Look closer. You’ll see so many negative images of aging. This barrage hurts us in so many ways. We know through research that positive self-perceptions of aging are associated with favorable outcomes in health, longevity, and well-being. Similarly, negative self-perceptions have negative impacts. Our challenge is to fight the beast of negative stereotypes. The change starts from within by changing our mindset. The field of anthropology gives us some clues to help us make this mindset shift through the concept of liminality.
Look closer. The limin is the threshold – that place of in-between. Liminal life stages sit between more rigorously defined stages and roles. Adolescence is an example of a liminal life stage. An adolescent is between childhood and adulthood. Childhood roles and expectations have fallen away, but adult roles and expectations are not yet in place. This creates tremendous freedom. The only expectations are those that are self-imposed. This is a place that defines post-adulthood. And this creates a conduit whereby positive images and role models can overtake negative messaging. It is up to each of us to encourage this shift in mindset and help our elders exploit the freedom that comes with age. Making it easier for our elders to take risks and jump into the state of liminal freedom is a responsibility we all share. This is our driving philosophy at Bayview.
Look closer. The liminal zone is ripe with creativity. When psychologist Karen Tanzy approached us about a creative intergenerational project, we jumped at it. When her friend and filmmaker Scott Jackman was added to the mix to document the project, the three of us experienced alchemical magic and developed a filmworks project at Bayview.
Over the course of a few years, we’ve completed several films. The films had resident participation at every level: story creation, scriptwriting, set design, directing, singing, dancing, acting, and more. It enabled our residents to flex their “freedom muscles” and really put themselves out there. In addition to the positive impacts residents felt by participating in the film projects, these films promoted positive images of aging and are testimony to the freedom and power that comes with age and liminality. We were delighted to learn that we will be presenting our experience of filmmaking with seniors at the National Center for Creative Aging Conference on September 26th in Washington D.C. Our hope is that other organizations can replicate our projects and add to the wave of mindsets shifting out of negative territory and into the incredible possibilities and positive outcomes of the liminal state of aging. Look closer. You’ll be glad you did.