Aging in Place The IDEA Series: POSITIVE AGING

In youth we learn; in age we understand.

~Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach


Aging in Place The IDEA Series

Guest Post by Harry Rick Moody PhD

I’ve spent 45 years working in the field of aging and I actually worked for Robert Butler, who invented the term “ageism.”  Naturally, I always thought I was immune from this disorder.  I was wrong.

I woke up recently having a dream.  I dreamed that I was trying to get into medical school (at age 71!).   I kept arguing with medical school officials, but they refused to take me: I was too old.

During the night, I had other dreams and thoughts about the vanishing of the past.  Was my dream a struggle against ageism or a sign of ageism in myself?

It turns out that it was the same day as my wife’s birthday.  A coincidence?  Another coincidence.  When I woke up I looked out the window and saw, on the open space behind our house, a visitor: a mother deer and her young faun, coming up to our fence to give a greeting.  Remembering our new (and first) granddaughter born just last week, I appreciated their greeting.  Generations succeed each other, indeed.

The opening keynote speaker for the Positive Aging Conference (2016) was Ashton Applewhite, known for her book, This Chair Rocks, a manifesto against ageism. But where is ageism, actually?  I remember that after I turned 65 I went to a movie theater and decided to get the senior discount.  At the ticket window, I was reaching for my wallet (being “carded” again, just like at age 21!) when the clerk quickly said, “Oh no, you don’t need that.  You clearly qualify.”  I felt a pang of disappointment at her words.  Wasn’t I the immortal youth?

I was wrong about that, and wrong about ageism, too.  It’s inside my head.

From time to time, I’m asked what is “Positive Aging?”  As chair of the Program Committee for our 8th International Positive Aging Conference, I suppose I should have a ready answer.  But I don’t.  I could say, “Well, it’s the opposite of negative aging,” that wouldn’t tell anyone very much.

I will say that we live in a society where aging is not exactly a popular idea– which is why some groups have actually abandoned the very word: for example, the International Longevity Center, founded by Robert Butler (now based at Columbia) or the Stanford University Longevity Center, just to name two.  Other examples come to mind: Elderhostel, the largest education travel program in the world changed its name to “Road Scholar.”  The U.S. Administration on Aging renamed itself “The Administration on Community Living.”  The list goes on.

You can change names, but people still know what you’re referring to.  I’ve said many times that in marketing terms, changing a brand is not the same thing as changing a name. There are also three phrases– all using the word “aging”– that are worth consulting as we go forward:  Successful Aging, Productive Aging, and Conscious Aging.

Here are some resources:

Successful Aging, by John Rowe and Robert Kahn (Dell, 1999).

Productive Aging: Concepts and Challenges, edited by Nancy Morrow-Howell and others (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2001).

For Conscious Aging see my own article on the subject at: THOUGHTS ON CONSCIOUS AGING

Aging: Concepts and Controversies 9th Edition

Harry (Rick) Moody, PhD.

Recently retired as Vice President and Director of Academic Affairs for AARP in Washington, DC. He is currently Visiting Professor at Tohoku University in Japan, and Distinguished Visiting Professor at Fielding Graduate University. Dr. Moody previously served as Executive Director of the Brookdale Center on Aging at Hunter College and Chairman of the Board of Elderhostel (now Road Scholar). Dr. Moody is the author of over 100 scholarly articles, as well as a number of books including: Abundance of Life: Human Development Policies for an Aging Society, Ethics in an Aging Society and Aging: Concepts and Controversies, a gerontology textbook now in its 7th edition. His most recent book, The Five Stages of the Soul, was published by Doubleday Anchor Books and has been translated into seven languages worldwide.

Dr. Moody has been instrumental in the development and update of the Certified Senior Advisor course and curriculum. He has worked with the Society of Certified Senior Advisors since its inception to create the CSA Textbook, Working with Seniors: Health, Financial and Social Issues and has been a long standing consultant and advocate for SCSA.

A graduate of Yale (1967) and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia University (1973), Dr. Moody taught philosophy at Columbia, Hunter College, New York University, and the University of California at Santa Cruz. From 1999 to 2001 he served as National Program Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Faith in Action and, from 1992 to 1999, was Executive Director of the Brookdale Center at Hunter College. Before coming to Hunter, he served as Administrator of Continuing Education Programs for the Citicorp Foundation and later as Co-Director of the National Aging Policy Center of the National Council on Aging in Washington, DC.

Harry Moody is known nationally for his work in older adult education and recently stepped down as Chairman of the Board of Elderhostel. He has also been active in the field of biomedical ethics and holds appointment as an Adjunct Associate of the Hastings Center.

In recent years he has been an invited speaker at Yale, Stanford, Notre Dame, Brown, the University of Yokohama, and the Chattauqua Institution. He has frequently been interviewed on TV and radio about Elderhostel and personal growth in the second half of life.


Thank you, Dr. Moody for your contribution to Aging in Place: The IDEA Series