It couldn’t have been any better! Hebrew SeniorLife last night had a truly spectacular lineup for its third annual EngAGE event. There was Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post and author of The #1 New York Times bestseller Thrive; Dr. Atul Gawande, world-renowned surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and best-selling author of Being Mortal; Ben Vereen, Tony-Award Winning actor, singer and dancer; and Dr. Alexis Abramson, leading industry expert for those over 50 and an award-winning journalist.
Any one of them would have made for an inspiring and thought-provoking evening to cue up the conversation about what it means to rethink aging. But to have all four of them bring their perspective to the audience of more than 300 was nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Gawande talked about one of the more than 200 interviews he did for his book. He spoke to a woman who was in a nursing home where she felt “safe” but felt like she was in a hospital, not in a home. She felt like she could do more and “missed her friendships, her privacy and her purpose.”
He also talked about bringing his mother to visit Boston and NewBridge on the Charles, Orchard Cove (both HSL owned and operated) and “what she saw blew her mind.” She got a “glimpse of something different” of what a full life could be like in the last years of life.
As Gawande said, past the age of 65, people are more likely to have love in his or her life, to be financially secure, to have less anxiety and depression. “The reality of aging can be better than the future we fear.” But, he said, there is work to do to make sure that we have the places we need to make that all happen. HSL, Gawande said, is ahead of the curve.
And then there was Arianna Huffington, who riffed on the revelation she had after collapsing from exhaustion and fracturing her cheek when she fell. She talked about the importance of incorporating “digital detox” into our lives. We should create “sacred spaces” where we don’t allow technology. We allow stress to dominate everything, Huffington said. We have to re-evaluate what it takes to make a good life. “We are more than our jobs, no matter how great our jobs are.”
As we age, she said, we understand that life is about the ”giving even more than the getting.”
Ben Vereen, who was interviewed by Alexis Abramson, talked about “Wellness Through the Arts,” his organization that is bringing the arts back to schools and the importance of infusing the arts into our lives. “The arts are the saviors of life. If we can express ourselves through the arts, we can save ourselves.”
To which I say bravo!