The word vision really relates to the ability to see clearly and we use it in far more ways than just to describe someone’s eyesight. We talk about vision as an organizational concept, imagining what the future will be. It’s even a question we sometimes ask in job interviews, asking the candidate where they see themselves in five years, looking for their view of what they hope will lie ahead.
We talk about vision with young people, we ask them what their dreams are and, even as young children, we start to question them about what they want to be when they grow up. Having a vision for the future is the norm, the expectation and viewed as important. “If you don’t know where you’re going,” we say, “how will you know when you get there?”
And yet when we talk with older adults, we never talk about vision or dreams, we never talk about what their hopes are for the future. “They’ve lived a good life,” we might say or perhaps that they are “in the last chapter.” But everyone has a future and everyone has desires and dreams. An 85 year-old and a 15 year-old likely do not share the same vision but that does not mean that one is more or less relevant, more or less meaningful than the other.
Last week I had the opportunity to spend a little time with some of the participants in our Gallen Day Center. The Gallen Center is a medical day program for older adults that provides transportation, meals, nursing and social work services and an extensive program of meaningful and stimulating activities. It’s a place that folks come because they can be home with their families in the evening but they need more support during the day.
This particular afternoon many of our participants were making Vision boards. A vision board uses pictures (usually cut from magazines) and words to create a representation of what the individual would like to see in the year ahead. They provide a great way to think through what’s important to you and to think about what you’d like the year to hold. I’ve had the chance to do this myself and it is a powerful way to focus on what really matters to you and to create a visual reminder to help you stay on track throughout the year.
I watched our Gallen Center participants engage with the idea of a vision board and create posters that represented their dreams and goals for the coming year. Family and travel were common themes but my favorite board was one that had the word “JOY” splashed all the way across the top. This participant explained to me that her goal for the year was to find joy in her life and the pictures she chose for her board were of beautiful places as well as things that made her smile.
When I left the Center, the excitement in the room stayed with me for a long time but even more so, the absolute delight in the faces of the participants. I think their joy was not for the activity per se but about being asked to look ahead and given the opportunity to express their dreams. Rather than looking at their age as the end point, they really were given license to look at it as another vital active spot along the way, they were encouraged to imagine and they were asked to share their desires.
None of us know how long our future is, none of us know what tomorrow will bring but all of us, regardless of age, are entitled to have dreams and to fulfill our dreams.