Much of our youth is dedicated to figuring out what we believe and getting good– at something. We begin to play “life’s most dangerous game” when we reach the point that we are able to challenge the concept that our identity is defined narrowly by our accumulated skills and beliefs.
It’s not possible to predict exactly when that point will arrive, but it marks the beginning of the end of “adulthood” and a transition into the great unknown “what’s next.”
When we reach that unknown threshold, we we get to choose what is next. We get to change what we think, change what we do and, if we desire it, become someone new. That’s a very dangerous game.
Put very simply: what could possibly be more dangerous than growing old?
Most people think that that this process of aging is all about decline– and they are dead wrong. It is really about growth, and this type of growth depends on a willingness to take risks.
Want to learn to ride a bike? You are guaranteed to fall.
Want to fall in love? Your heart will be broken someday.
Learn to ride a bike anyway. Fall in love anyway. The danger is good for you. It helps you grow.
People who want to help those older than themselves often demand that elders stop taking risks. Not us. We want you to explore. Be cool. Step out on the ledge. Admire the view. Then go higher.
Aging offers us one more chance– to make things right. That’s a chance that shouldn’t be missed. It’s an opportunity we need to seize with both hands.
People who play life’s most dangerous game get to write their own rulebook. They explore, they choose and then they act.
Q: How can I play life’s most dangerous game?
A: You can begin by choosing to change. Danger will soon appear and, when it does, grab it and hold on tight!
Tiffani Creutzer says
Hi fellow readers,
I’m an AGNG 200 student at the Erickson School of Aging and I agree with this post! I love the fact that you make aging out to be something that it is not normally recognized for. Like you said, when most people think of aging, they think of doing less, being more “careful”. Dr. Bill Thomas’s position of getting involved/active when one grows old goes hand in hand with the activity theory that we learned in class. The activity theory states that the more active people are in old age, the more likely they are to be satisfied with life. There is also the saying “We are what we do” and in old age, taking risks is an elder persons last chance to do things they haven’t gotten to do. They could finally be the person that they’ve always wanted to be; do things that they’ve always wanted to do. Life in general is full of risks, live it up.
Brittney Bonhomme says
Hello, I am currently an AGNG 200 student at the Erickson School of Aging. I really enjoyed this post because it put a different spin on aging that most people don’t look at. A lot of people are scared of aging and continuously ask themselves “What’s next?” I have a brother that thinks about this subject all of the time and this post would help him look at aging as something that can make you better. As someone ages they gain perspective, which could ultimately change who they are. I like how you put a positive spin on people changing, because sometimes people need to change for the better. Throughout the AGNG 200 course we have learned how aging can be seen as a sore thumb in society, and how people try to do anything they can to delay the process. Sometimes people can become depressed at the fact that they are aging, and I hope people could learn to look at the process of aging as you do.
Meghan Thomas says
I too am a student currently studying at the Erickson School of Aging. The information we have learned regarding aging and how to age in a proper and healthy manner is very similar to the ideas expressed in this blog by Dr. Bill Thomas. One of the main theories about aging we learned about is the Activity Theory, which claims that successful and healthy aging occurs when older adults maintain a level of activity and social interactions. This concept is essentially what Dr. Thomas is describing in his blog post titled, “What is life’s most dangerous game?” He believes that Aging should not be viewed as a period of decline, but rather an opportunity to grow and do things we did not have the chance to do before, taking risks and seizing the opportunities that aging provides. I agree with this post completely, because I firmly believe in the activity theory of aging. I believe that in order to age properly and happily, one has to remain active and social, try new things, and take chances. After all, old age is considered to be the golden years. If we allow ourselves to become depressed and weary of old age, those years will be miserable instead. That is why I too will choose to play life’s most dangerous game, embracing change and the opportunities it brings.
Mohammad Marzooghian says
My name is Mohammad Marzooghian, and I am an AGNG student at the Erickson School of Aging. I completely agree with the contents of this blog post as it resonates deeply with the teachings and materials I have been exposed to in my studies of Aging. The part that stands out the most is the idea that aging is not to decline but rather and opportunity to grow. I found this idea to be very similar to the teachings of Rabbi Zalman, and his theory on Spiritual Eldering. Like Dr. Bill Thomas, Rabbi Zalman did not see aging as a period of decline but rather as an opportunity. An opportunity to bring one’s life work to fruition and to still set goals and be active. Similarly, Dr. Thomas believes that aging is a process of growth and a willingness to take risks – thus to still be active. Dr. Thomas also states that “Aging offers us one more chance – to make things right.” This is very similar to the concept of “harvesting a life” that Rabbi Zalman mentions. Old age is an opportunity to look back on one’s life and experiences and harvest it so as to leave something meaningful and tangible. In conclusion, I believe that both Dr. Thomas and Rabbi Zalman have the proper perspective towards old age by viewing it as an opportunity rather than something to be afraid of.
Hello, I am an Aging 200 student at the Erickson School of Aging. While reading your blog I found it refreshing to see a view that is not distracted by the age of one’s body. Instead it highlights the good that comes from aging and allows readers to understand a better meaning of aging. Most of society fears the future because they believe that what the future holds for them is dentures and disease, not new lessons and adventures. The fact that younger generations have examples and lessons from their elders is a great advantage, allowing them to always better themselves. What they do with knowledge is on them but atleast it is there. The idea that “life’s most dangerous game” is not what is expected when first starting to read this blog is a nice step back for the reader. A step that allows them to ponder on aging as a whole.
Shelby Sos says
Hello, I am an AGNG 200 student at the Erickson School of Aging. This article is exactly what aging adults need to read and realize that it’s never too late! In AGNG 200 we learn many different theories on aging, but the theory that this would relate with is the activity theory. As adults age, many are likely to disengage from the world. In our class we have learned that the more active aging adults are, the more social they are and the more hobbies they have actually help keep them healthy.
When aging adults see that growing older isn’t a bad thing, but a chance to keep on living and reaching the dreams or goals they set for themselves, this keeps them healthy. As stated in the article, seeing aging as a chance to live is a wonderful thing for the aging community to realize. With the wisdom they have obtained from life experiences, the possibilities for themselves are endless.
Lilia Williamson says
I am an AGNG 200 student at the Erickson School of Aging and I completely agree with this article. This article definitely changed how I view aging now. I always viewed getting older as a bad thing. I concentrated on things such as increase in expenses, increase in health issues, wrinkles, etc. I fell into the trap of how society views aging. After reading this article, I view aging as an opportunity to do more, such as learning, passing down the knowledge, explore more places, etc. Aging truly gives you a chance to do more things in life.
In our Aging class, we studied about different ways people cope with getting older. In some cases, people turn to spirituality and exercise. In other cases, people become depressed and in some cases, commit suicide. People should read this article because it gives people the reasons of why getting older should be about taking chances, and not follow the society’s view of aging.
Timothy L Collis says
I am a student of the Aging 200 Erickson School. I agree with this post completely. As we age, we have so much time to explore and expand our horizon. We should never limit ourselves to just one hobby or stop ourselves from learning after being done with school. Trying new things and learning new ideas can help us stay positive about aging, using it as a tool to gain more wisdom and discovering new aspects of life.
Androw Hanna says
I am a AGNG 200 student at the Erickson School of Aging. I definitely agree with this post. In order for people to age, they have to do new things that haven’t been done before. People must explore life and have fun or sometimes their life may not have a purpose. Life is all about trying new things. We often read about in class, many more diseases come to those who just sit around. Depression is one of those diseases. When sitting around as one becomes older, it can lead to diseases such as diabetes, and can cause problems with the blood such as blood clots. Getting up and moving around and loving life to its fullest really does impact the older generation positively.
chris yum says
Hello, I am an AGNG 200 student at the Erickson School of Aging. I have thoroughly enjoyed this post because it goes against traditional beliefs about how one should age, and it makes a good point about it. I agree with the fact that we should in fact as we age never stop being fearless about choices we make and continue taking the risk/opportunity to gain something new rather than being more reserved and cautious. As we age we gain new wisdoms and using that we should embrace opportunities and fearlessly dive into a new realm of choices, one without the stigma of being too old to do something. In the present day, society and even textbooks make a point about how people seem to see aging as a bad thing and that all it comes with is memory loss, physical disabilities, cost of health, and other problems; however, they miss a key point about what aging can bring to the table. In class we have learned about the different ways of aging and the theories behind them, and I can say that this post seems to follow the activity theory to an extent, which is something I firmly believe in. Throughout the ways one can cope with aging, I would venture to say rather than coping with aging, why not embrace it and look forward to it? As we mature some doors will close for us, but at the same time many new doors are opening so there is no reason to simply cope with aging when it is not a bad thing. Life is something to enjoy and that means all parts of it so stopping how you live your life and grasping opportunities just because you’ve aged some is like living only half your life while throwing the rest away. Now that sounds absurd, so put out your hands when risk is there, and grasp onto opportunity like it is a key to success.
Michael Choe says
Hi, I am current an Aging 200 student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. I found this article to be very influential and enjoyed reading every part of it. Specifically, I agreed with your point on how danger is good for the aging and that it allows us to one more chance to make things right. Dr. Thomas and I view this issue very similarly. I have a grandfather that is 76 that rides his home bike for 5 miles every day. To many older adults, that many seem like an uncomfortable activity, but the body adjusts and adapts! Although 5 miles may a little excessive(My grandfather is too passionate about fitness), running or walking is a great activity to keep your body in shape! During week 4 of our online class, we emphasized that “it is never too late to start a healthy lifestyle”. As an advocate of fitness and healthy, I know for a fact that being active in your every day life has tremendous effects on your mental, physical and mental health.
One more thing that I would like to point out. I am greatly inspired when elders achieve their goals. This can either be related to fitness or life. Older people have a lot more power than they think in terms of inspiration on the younger generation.
I really enjoyed this post by Dr. Bill Thomas. Well done!
Paisley Bedford Parker says
Hi, I am currently an Aging 200 student at the Erikson School of Aging. This post was extremely refreshing in light of the usual stereotypical view of the elderly and of aging. As a younger person, although I do not feel that older adults should feel inclined to slow down or stop living. My grandparents are personally some of my favorite people, and I love seeing them continue to stay active in their community as they age. I don’t think many people take into consideration that older adults play a large role in the community as their own separate group, but also as a guide for generations that follow. Their fearlessness to age is a model for future generations. Their knowledge is passed down. Their wisdom is always a source of reference.
I have recently read an NPR article of about an 87-year-old Peace Corps volunteer who also made me think about all of the benefits of staying active and asking “what’s next?”
Thank you for this. It has definitely reminded me to take risks now, and to continue throughout life.
Katherine Jackson says
Hi, I’m currently an Aging 200 student at the Erickson School of Aging. As someone who has always dreaded the concept of growing old I found this article very refreshing. As someone grows older we often emphasize the downfalls that are associated with it and emphasize that they should limit the amount that they explore and take less risks. Society emphasizes the downfall as the deterioration of mobile functions, wrinkles, memory loss and having less control of your bladder. You offer a different perspective on aging. You focused on the fact that it gives you a chance to do things that you might not have had the courage to do when you were a younger adult.
Throughout our Aging 200 class we have learnt about how different individuals cope with aging in various ways. Some individuals become depressed as they become older and contemplate suicide, while others try and cope with aging through exercise and spirituality.
I do agree that the best way to go through life is choosing to change and adapting when danger approaches, and enjoy the moment.
Colton Hower says
I am an Aging 200 student at Erickson School of Aging. I loved reading this article and agreed with every aspect of it. I have always viewed the process of aging as a very positive thing. I never understood why people were afraid to grow old. I always viewed the process of growing old as a way to pass down all the knowledge you have gathered among your life to the younger generations. I can not think of a better way to learn then from a person who has already gone through that same life experience. The best way to get through a difficult time or to solve a problem, is to ask for advice, and there noone is more suited to give this advice than someone who has already lived in that moment. You can’t be taught to ride a bike from a man who has never rode a bike himself.
Harvey Austin the Elder says
‘Tis a far far better thing to do
Than remain adult your most life through
Become an Elder along with me
The Best of life is yet to be.
joan kern p.hd says
How do you get to see one of these projects?
This is good stuff. It seems that I’m onto something! I’m so glad there’s a movement underfoot and I’m part of the stepping, and reading the blog to my husband is fun! I just bought him a tee shirt that has hands holding on the bikes handlebars saying ” grab life and hold on tight”!
Loree Kilian says
I am so very happy to have found Dr. Bill Thomas. I am a 57-year-old Engagement Director at a retirement community near Chicago. And I’m a Wellness Coach. In these roles and in my own personal life, I am all about seeing aging the same way that Dr. Thomas describes it. In fact, I’d love to work with him if he ever had interest inhiring an assistant. I hope to meet him at some point and hear him speak. He is doing what I try to do: spread the word that there is such a thing as a vibrant senior, and to allow seniors the experience of seeing so for themselves.
– Loree Kilian
The Summit of Uptown
Park Ridge, IL
Tuck Kamin says
Be Lion of Aging. Eat the trainer that holds you back with a whip.