About This Series

For the past 10 months, a team of reporters and photographers has been following 20 New Yorkers as they navigate their 80s.

The project -- spearheaded by the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center -- is not a research project; we did not draw a sample of people to stand for the population of all New Yorkers. Instead, we searched for - and found -- an abundance of people who are passionately engaged in living interesting lives, in neighborhoods throughout New York, from many countries and backgrounds, in a variety of living situations and family structures, of different religions and colors. And we are sharing a year in their complicated, multi-faceted lives - to demonstrate that aging is living.

For the next six weeks, we'll tell one of their stories here.
The rest can be found at www.exceedingexpectations.nyc.

Though the reporting will continue through January, and even into next year, some conclusions already are apparent. First, we have learned that there are as many ways to be old as there are to be young. Many people are engaged in the work or activities - or similar kinds of activities - that occupied them when they were younger. Some help in the businesses of family members. A few have found new passions. Some are struggling with retirement -- unsure how to spend their time and energy. All have dreams they want to fulfill.

Second, people's social networks are very different, but are crucial to their lives. Some are embedded in extended families; others in groups of friends, with some friendships spanning most of their lives. A few have social networks of their neighborhoods. All have lost many they have loved. Several are actively dating. Almost everyone takes care of someone else -a spouse, children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren. Many are, in turn, sometimes cared for by others. Some are alone. Several are separated from previous partners. Several are grieving recent loss.

Health problems add up over the years, and most of the people live with multiple health issues - the chronic conditions that accumulate with age: heart issues, lung issues, diabetes, loss of hearing or sight, arthritis and other pains and problems with joints and bones, and cognitive changes and dementia. Several people had bad falls in the time we have known them.

Nevertheless, we see that later life is not a steady decline. Life has gone up and down for all since we met them - with victories and joy and weeks of good health and days when going outside is too much. Those with the most severe health conditions, were often the most active on their good days. And when many seemed like they would get worse, they got better.

It has been a journey. Come along with us.

Ruth Finkelstein
Associate Director
Robert N Butler Columbia Aging Center

Dorian Block
Director and Editor, Exceeding Expectations
Robert N Butler Columbia Aging Center



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