On March 22, 2017, the AgeLab held its bimonthly 85+ Lifestyle Leaders workshop, which brings together members of the "oldest-old" generational cohort, those 85 years and older, to explore questions related to the current frontier of human longevity. The group's participants all live in the metro-Boston area and travel to the MIT campus independently.
The March workshop centered around the topic of home and belonging. The opening presentation featured guest speakers Hanna McLaughlin and Alyssa Mayo, both graduate students at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). The speakers presented on the emotional ties people have to their homes and their possessions, and the challenges that come with making life transitions. Moving and downsizing in later life raises questions about identity, meaning, and history.
Following the presentation, Lifestyle Leaders engaged in small group discussions on the topic. Participants weighed in on the value of worldly possessions, or "stuff," and the challenges of moving in older age. One participant said, "In the past year many of my friends have moved to assisted living facilities, and my family is hinting that I should do so also. But I'm resisting it. ...Just the thought of packing and moving and throwing things out is beyond me. Physically I would need a lot of help. I don’t think it’s something I even could or would want to do. I need a decision-maker for what to throw out or what not to throw out."
Another participant added, "As I get older, I become a very emotional guy. Maybe everybody does this. But I decided I wanted to get away from the winter last month, and I went to California for five or six weeks, and rented an apartment. Not once when I was in California did I think of my home or any of the things that were in there. Not until I got home. So I don’t think I have an emotional attachment to 99 percent of the things in my apartment."
The next Lifestyle Leaders workshop will be on May 3, 2017.