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Undoing Ageism

What is one topic we rarely think of or look forward to when we are young and looking to our future? Aging. Not a fun topic at all.

With each new developmental stage, there are fun and exciting new parts of life. Five year olds are excited or (maybe anxious) about Kindergarten. Middle schoolers look forward to high school and dating and driving. High schoolers think about possible careers and college and being independent from parents. Then, we start thinking about marriage and family and long term career goals. Then, our thinking ahead tends to stop. Perhaps we think about retirement in some vague ways and some of the "glamour" that we think may come with that--traveling the globe, buying a vacation home, honing our hobby skills. At each stage of development, we are excited and look forward to the next part of life, until we are older. Other than those idealistic lifestyle things, it is hard to imagine ourselves as, well, "old."

I've always thought that we each have a mental age. An age that we tend to think we are no matter our actual age. For example, mentally, I think of myself as about 23. In reality, my body says something different. Have you ever talked to a ninety year old and heard them say they think of themselves as being ninety? No, probably not. That is one of the tough things about aging. We see ourselves differently than what our body shows others.

Our aging population tends to be forgotten, put on a shelf so to speak. According to the World Health Organization, "ageism is everywhere, yet it is the most socially 'normalized' of any prejudice, and is not widely countered – like racism or sexism. These attitudes lead to the marginalization of older people within our communities and have negative impacts on their health and well-being." Senior Access is blessed to work with this population of people. We hear their stories. We see their lives.

In this blog series, we want to show how awesome these people are. They have led (and are still leading) rich, full lives and have such wisdom to share. We start this series of stories with an accomplished author and educator. Meet Jackie.

Author, Jackie Smith

We have only known Jackie here at Senior Access for about a year, but she has taught us a lot about perseverance, overcoming challenges, and following dreams. She is such a smart, accomplished person! At 12 years old Jackie submitted a piece of writing to McCall magazine. They published the piece and thought it was written by an adult. This lit a fire in her for writing. Because of a very difficult family life, she quit school at sixteen. Unfortunately, she moved from a bad family environment into another bad environment with her husband. She had a very difficult home life for many years. One day she decided to change things.

Over the years, Jackie has had a lot of various work opportunities. She has been a probation officer, writer for Educators Magazine, school teacher, Principal, and School owner. She started a private school in South Austin where students could focus on cultural arts or sports and a superior education. She loves teaching students of all ages creative writing and her most treasured memories are those of her students and the relationships she made with them.

Despite a challenging childhood and young adult life, she had a passion for learning and earned several degrees including a Bachelor's degree in Criminology and Psychology, a Master's degree in Psychology and a PhD in Educational Psychology. It was actually through her job as a probation officer that she received a full scholarship to St Edwards University for one of her Bachelor's degrees. Impressive!

Jackie is also an accomplished author and wrote a book based on her childhood. The publisher thought it deserved to be a Trilogy. She received the Eaton Literary Award and made records with her publishing company.

Jackie is one of our clients, but that does not define who she is. She is smart, educated, interesting, unique, experienced, and talented. We can all learn something from her if we take the time to listen.

We invite you to experience getting to know Jackie or any of our other clients by volunteering with us. Through volunteering, you can learn for yourself how great our clients are and how listening to older generations can inspire us and teach us. Let's fight ageism together and give honor and respect to our aging population.

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