Living and Aging Well

Fulfilling lifelong dreams

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Now more than ever before, people around the world can relate to feeling isolated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Isolation, something that increasingly affects our well-being as we age, is incredibly dangerous and puts individuals at higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and even dementia. According to the National Council on Aging nearly one in three socially isolated seniors expect their quality of life to get worse in the next decade. This number will only continue to grow as the senior population is anticipated to double by 2050. So, what can be done to make sure individuals are aging well?

Communities that produce the most centenarians share traits of social integration, community support, and family involvement. Culture matters — seniors who live in cultures that value, respect, and integrate them into the community live longer and have a better quality of life. Together, we can build this culture.

Wish of a Lifetime from AARP is a Denver-based nonprofit organization that grants life enriching and experiential wishes to adults 65-plus across the United States. They grant wishes that reconnect loved ones, renew and celebrate passions, commemorate service, and fulfill lifelong dreams! Wish of a Lifetime grants wishes to combat senior isolation and shift the way society views and values aging. By granting wishes and sharing the stories of our eldest generations, Wish of a Lifetime hopes to create a more inclusive society.

Wish of a Lifetime was founded by NFL quarterback and Olympic gold medalist Jeremy Bloom in 2008 in loving memory of his grandmother Donna Wheeler. He was inspired by his travels throughout the world, seeing the countless acts of kindness and respect for elders across Europe and Asia, wanting to bring that sense of respect to the United states. Since 2008, Wish of a Lifetime has granted more than 2,000 wishes to deserving seniors.

Wishes connect seniors to people, purpose and passions to eliminate feelings of isolation and help them live vibrant, purposeful lives. Helping an older adult achieve a long-held or deeply meaningful dream can have tremendous positive outcomes on their health, purpose, and sense of value. Wish recipients report that they are happier, healthier, and feel more involved in the world after having a wish granted.

One of the organization’s favorite wishes is that of Elvira Gomes. In October 2019 Wish of a Lifetime sent Elvira, 94, and her daughter Rachel, 72, to New York City to visit Ellis Island and see the Statue of Liberty in person. Elvira’s parents had originally immigrated to the U.S. from Azore Islands off the coast of Portugal and she had always been very connected to her immigrant Portuguese roots and always dreamed of visiting the Statue of Liberty, which continues to serve as a beacon of hope for Americans of all backgrounds. With the help of Wish of a Lifetime, a long-awaited wish that seemingly felt out of reach was granted for Elvira and her daughter Rachel.

“I had tears in my eyes. It was beautiful, all the people that came into that island … so much thinking and planning and working together … it was a miracle.” — Elvira

Individuals can nominate themselves or a loved one for a Wish of a Lifetime by submitting an application at https://wishofalifetime.org/submit-a-wish/.

Elija Valdez is the Wish Lead at Wish of a Lifetime. To learn more contact elija@wishofalifetime.org, or call 720-647-9740.

This column is hosted by the Seniors’ Council of Douglas County. Please join us for our next virtual online presentation June 3 at 10 a.m. Elija Valdez will be our presenter and provide an overview about Wish of a Lifetime. For more information, please visit www.MyDougCoSeniorLife.com, email DCSeniorLife@douglas.co.us or call 303-663-7681.

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