At age 75, Senior Planet trainer Pat Whitty was promoted to the Dean of the School of Business at a small university. Despite this career high point, he realized that he wasn’t accomplishing his true life goals. He asked himself: when in my life have I felt like I had a purpose?
Pat took a leap of faith. He left the stable paycheck to pursue his life’s purpose. He got involved with the Modern Elder Academy, became a Certified Health Coach and launched a Life Transition Coaching business, began writing a book, started training with Senior Planet, and started speaking publicly about what he calls “the joy of aging” and why it’s really not something to be scared of.
What brought you to being a Senior Planet trainer?
I’ve been really interested in the subject of aging for a number of years. It’s interesting that the older you get the more interested you are in aging.
I view Senior Planet as an opportunity to get in line with my purpose. I just turned 80 and I’m very fortunate to be living my best life – which is a little bit abnormal because most people start to dread becoming this age at about 40. I really want to do whatever I can to help people view aging as an opportunity, not a problem.
“I really want to do whatever I can to help people view aging as an opportunity, not a problem.”
Why did you first start thinking more about aging and ageism?
It’s important to give people the opportunity to talk, be listed to, and be appreciated for who they are – and not judged by their age or their faces.
The reason I say faces is because one of my awakening moments was around age 75. I was in a networking meeting and at those things, the first question after introductions is, “What do you do?” This time, a man I had just met asked, “Are you retired?” At that moment I realized what oppressed members of our population go through. I was being judged entirely on my face – I was immediately stereotyped.
Then I had to re-think my attitude about aging. Why was it so disturbing to me to be judged by my face only? It was an awakening moment.
Tell me more about the book you’re working on!
I’m using my story to help people navigate life transitions. All of us experience change, it’s an external event. But transitions are internal. Some are voluntary and some you don’t ask for, like being fired or illness.
The book tries to show how you can get through these transitions. A lot of it is letting go of the past, which is difficult for people.
“Then I had to re-think my attitude about aging.”
You were involved in the development of the Generations Over Dinner event?
I’m really, really excited about this initiative! I was in the working group that helped to plan it and I think it could transform our society in some ways.
Older people have preconceived notions about younger people and younger people have negative views of older people. Get these people together over dinner, get them out of their silos, and they will start to value each other. Listen to each other. I’m happy to see that Senior Planet is piloting the program.
What does aging with attitude mean to you?
It means learning and continuing to open your mind to new things. And most of all, to maintain that child-like curiosity. We come into this world with so many questions that we annoy our parents with. And so often, we go out of this world with answers. But most of those answers are wrong! Because we didn’t challenge our own answers.
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Pam Hugi is Senior Planet’s Community and Advocacy Manager. Based in Brooklyn, she runs Senior Planet’s Supporter program in addition to being a contributing writer for this site. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.