4 personal lessons about ageing

by Catherine Rickwood

The creeks had burst their banks, the only road out was flooded with water hurtling past at over 1metre high and powerful enough to sweep any vehicle downstream along with trees and all manner of debris that was loose and vulnerable to such strength and intensity. There’s no landline, no mobile, no Internet and I’m by myself.  Whilst I’m happily ensconced in the warmth of our shed with a fire constantly burning I’m acutely aware of my isolation. Combined with my forced isolation and the company of Martin Seligman and Gloria Steinem, here’s the four things I discovered about me and ageing …

  1. The importance of community and neighbours. If it wasn’t for neighbours I’d have felt far more alone and isolated. I’ve always been fiercely independent and invariably shunned being part of a group to avoid being a ‘groupie’. What I learned was that I actually enjoy being able to be with people. To be able to be connected in some way. Whether in person, by phone, email or social media. It was being completely isolated that gave me that awareness. Whilst I’ve written about it before, I now know that being part of a community is crucial to my sense of wellbeing and joy and is something I’ll actively seek as I age. The shared experience I had with our neighbours (including their homemade scones) was greater than the individual one I would otherwise have had.

2. How much I value freedom and choice. Initially it was exciting. I marveled at the ferocity, size, and speed of the roaring, deafening creeks that for most of the year, harmlessly bubbled, tumbled and quietly gurgled across rocks. By day two I’d had enough. With no communication to the outside world I realised my dependence on communication and technology to keep me connected and provide a level of safety. I came to appreciate the role of technology to provide us all with a sense of freedom, choice, and safety regardless of age and the importance of embracing rather than rejecting technology advancements.

Of course Seligman and Steinem were with me figuratively – through their books. With nowhere to go and no place to be I enjoyed the opportunity to catch up on my reading.

3. Seligman confirmed my belief that having purpose and meaning, positive relationships and a sense of accomplishment are important to thrive.

4. Steinem reignited my love of travel and desire to explore unknown places and meet new people. At 83 I figure Steinem might have some idea of the value of travel given the role it has played in her own life. However, of greatest significance is that in her book she identified the most important discovery of her life: the power of talking circles“groups that gather with all five senses, and allow consciousness to change”.

In my work as a researcher I’m about to embark on some conversations in the style of talking circles to discuss getting older including my discoveries, insights and concerns. And, I’d love to start one here.

What are your thoughts about becoming older? Let’s begin a conversation and create an online talking circle that allows the consciousness about ageing to change. Will you join me?

About the Author

Catherine Rickwood

An experienced researcher and business executive, Catherine's work is informed by academic knowledge and evidence to deliver practical actions with measurable outcomes. These combined skills create a powerful and useful ability to delve deep on issues, ask incisive questions, think laterally, and bring knowledge and insights to individuals, a team, and an organisation keen to engage with, and include the over 50's as a valuable part of their business strategy.

Catherine Rickwood is solutions-focussed, working with innovative organisations keen to improve customer and employee insights and empathy to increase their success in new markets, build loyalty, and increase innovation. She does this using a co-design process that engages employees and key stakeholders to create collaborative solutions. Contact Catherine to discover how her services can support your organisation to harness the changing demographic reality.

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