Gail, 54 yrs

Jul 31st 2022

“My grandmother Ellen was a very influential force in my life. She was gregarious, smart, and pretty. She could light up a room instantly. She was the antithesis of age-specific stereotypes. I always thought to myself, 'I want to be like her and stay like her'. She inspired me to pursue a Masters in Gerontology.

Currently, I am an educator and conduct research on factors that affect the quality of life and well-being at midlife and in later life. The biggest takeaway from my research was realizing how much of what we think about aging is centered on physical appearance. In a youth-oriented society, we fear looking old. I was at London Drugs the other day and I saw a famous woman of my age on the front cover – she looked perfect – not a single wrinkle. But it also looked unreal. Is this the standard of aging we want to achieve in our society?

Recent circumstances have made me think about life differently. I had an eye-opening experience involving my heart, and my doctor told me that I would have died if I wasn’t fit and healthy. I love long-distance running and could easily run for miles. COVID-19 changed my life too. I began to accept death than fear it. I think it’s better to live each day as it comes because you never know where you’ll end up. Most of the time, things are out of your control.

My greatest accomplishment is being able to mentor students. It’s amazing to be able to share your life knowledge to make a difference in their lives. The sad part about my job is seeing people leave. I miss my friends that have retired – they were great people to talk to. Due to an increasingly aging population, it's reassuring that some older adults are working longer. It’s essential we provide the resources that they need to delay retirement – they would benefit from a financial source, and it would help enhance the availability of workers for essential roles.

There is a need to re-frame aging outside of physical appearance. We should think of aging as what we can contribute to the world rather than what we can do to look flawless. That may help us perceive aging in a more positive light.”