There is a lot of buzz about the lottery this week. Those big jackpots have just about everyone talking and it has been fun to hear the varying plans of folks should they win “the big one.” One of the most intriguing things to me has been the fact that just everyone who has shared their “plans” with me has had both individual dreams and dreams about benefitting others, not just themselves. Everyone seems to have a cause that resonates with them, some organization or group of people that they want to help.
Now maybe my world view of this is a bit skewed because, after all, the people with whom I work and with whom I’ve been having these hallway conversations, are all folks who have chosen to work with older adults. So perhaps the choice of “helping profession” leads them to want to think more globally and more philanthropically. Yet I do believe that most of us, given the opportunity, would choose to do tikkun olam, to help to heal the world. I’d like to think that anyway.
These conversations have also made me think about dreams and how important it is to have dreams at any age. Over the past two weeks, I had the gift of being a part of a 10-day Mission to Israel with elders who live with us, in both assisted living and long term care. These individuals have medical needs to varying extents and disabilities that range from minor to significant. Yet we loaded all of them on an airplane and took them across the world for 10 days. And not 10 days of leisure but 10 days of on and off the bus, of seeing sites and experiencing the country, of being everywhere from the Golan Heights to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
There are some who question why we do this, why we take the risk of traveling with vulnerable older adults, why a trip like this matters. My answer is always the same and it is, I believe, what all of us who work with elders must not just say but also believe, that we are never too old to dream and never too old to live our dreams. Why should age or disease or disability define us? Why should there be limits on our life when we pass a certain number or wrestle with the impact of aging?
Taking older adults to Israel may be an extreme example but the principles remain the same. We, not just professionals in aging services but all of us, need to see older adults as full, whole and capable. We need to remember that people are more than their diagnosis and disability, that regardless of age or stage, we all have not just the ability to dream but the right to dream as well as the potential to make dreams come true.