A post by Karen Austin of The Generation Above Me:
I spent the first three decades of my adult life on various college campuses—as a student, an adjunct and a clinical faculty member.
I taught a variety of undergraduate English courses and managed various student support services. I enjoyed mentoring young adults and giving them tips on how to succeed in college and how to move on to graduate school or employment.
But this mentoring relationship shattered at midlife.
At age 48 I followed my husband half-way across the country to a new campus.
The students there didn’t view me as a mentor. I was used to working with students who pursuing humanities majors; this new campus had a lot of students pursuing majors in the allied health professions.
Consequently, they found my area of expertise in English irrelevant for achieving in their fields.
Also, my age was moving me very far away from the near peer role I played for so long. They would seek me out if they needed a tissue, a fork or an adhesive strip, but they didn’t ask me for advice about their career or graduate school.
Being ignored or being defined as campus mommy wasn’t working for me.
After my first year at this bad-fit campus, I spent summer vacation visiting all six of my parent figures: my mom and step-dad in Utah, my dad and step-mom in Texas, and my in-laws in Oklahoma.
I noticed that as they were entering their 70s, they were managing minor age-related challenges. They are all still living independently and most of them were still working.
However, I could see that aging was going to soon get a bit tricky.
Because I was surrounded for decades by people 18-25, I had very little understanding of the challenges and opportunities of aging.
I found myself so deficient in this important area that I quit my job and started a graduate program in Aging Studies offered by a university across town.
I have changed gears and restated the unifying theme of my life: I am defined by my interest in growth and development across the lifespan.
Now I am hyper focused on issues related to healthy aging and supporting older adults in late adulthood.
And age is now on my side.
The older I get, the more I will become a near peer to the older adults I now work with as we support each other to age successfully.
Karen writes: My blog ,The Generation Above Me, is aimed at midlife adults. It contains information on how to achieve active aging as well as how to support aging parents. Some of the posts are information rich with links to high quality sites about aging. Other posts are personal essays where I grumble or exult about midlife.
Aging Studies: Colleges and Universities around the country offer programs in Aging Studies. Here’s a link to Karen’s program at Wichita State.
Photo: Karen at work!