Maintaining Identity in the Face of Old Age

We spend a lifetime building our identity: Discovering our hidden talents, realizing what we’re passionate about, deciding who we want to become and coming to terms with what we have accomplished. It’s a highly personal experience and it can take years. Then, almost suddenly, the time comes when we’ve lived through what is considered our “prime,” and the identities we’ve built are challenged by the changes that come with growing older. 

It can feel unfamiliar at times, especially as appearances change or new physical limitations make it harder to participate in hobbies. For older adults, it’s particularly important to understand how these changes start to affect self-perception and self-esteem—and find the balance between holding on to what makes us who we are and accepting how our identities may change.

Here are a few things worth thinking about if growing older begins to interfere with your sense of self:

Adjusting to Life After a Career

Many of us spend the majority of our life working full-time, whether we’re working in an office, caring for our children or something else entirely. And while many people look forward to having more free time in retirement, the adjustment can be jarring as we come to grips with just how much free time we really have. It’s normal to base your identity on what you do for a living—you probably spend dozens of hours a week at work, after all. So, while adjusting to life in retirement, it’s important to find new ways of feeling accomplished. That is, in many ways, what we cling to in our careers and families. Some ways to achieve this might be through volunteering in your community, finding new projects to work on (and see to the end!) and mentoring or tutoring younger people.  

Contending with Grief or Loss:

Is your attitude on life a core piece of how you see yourself? Or, in even other words, do you feel your personality defines you? Most of us probably answered yes—though, it’s okay if you didn’t. Either way, when we experience grief or deep feelings of loss, we may notice our outlook starts to change—but, when it doesn’t simply “snap back” like we thought it would, we may start to feel out of touch with who we are. When this happens, it’s important to understand how to ask for help. Depending on what you feel, you may benefit from a spiritual advisor, life coach or therapist. In many cases, contending with grief is more about feeling at peace and finding ways to enjoy the things we used to.

Adapting to Physical Changes

You wake up to get ready for the day and it hits you like a ton of bricks: those crow’s feet weren’t there yesterday… were they? Is that hip pain new, or are you just now noticing it? The cold weather sure isn’t helping—but, wait, when did that start being an issue? Changes in appearance may start out gradually or come on suddenly, but when it becomes a burden, it can leave us feeling less confident or less secure. This can be complicated to grapple with, but it’s important to find ways to keep up your self-esteem. Much of this shift is internal and may rely on placing value on what’s on the inside. Some ideas for keeping your sense of self in the face of physical changes might include holding onto your favorite style (even if you’re confronted with criticism about what’s “age-appropriate”) or pampering yourself with a spa day. There are many ways to preserve identity despite physical changes, but the goal is to seek things that make you feel your best.

In the end, one thing to keep in mind about our identities is that they have always changed as we reach new milestones in life.

As teenagers, we learn how to outgrow childhood and welcome responsibility. As young adults, we spend years trying to discover our “purpose,” like starting a family or finding success in our careers. In middle age, some of us face the fact that we must let our children find their independence as adults—and forfeit the piece of our identity we dedicated to them. Our identities have never been set in stone, yet we all adapt. The changes we face in our golden years are no different.

This article was written by Greta Iverson and submitted by Pivot Communication on behalf of Wingate Healthcare to be published in the Weston Town Crier

Manayunk-Roxborough Art Center features young artist with Asperger’s

Eart on the spectrum Emily Burke, 11, has been an artist since she could pick up a drawing utensil and last month, her art was featured every weekend at the Manayunk-Roxborough Art Center.

The show, named Art on the Spectrum, features artists diagnosed on different levels of the Asperger’s/Autism scale, MRAC Board Member Mike Muir said.

In first grade, Emily was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and now participates in several programs specifically designed to accommodate children with similar conditions.

“She has made leaps and bounds since her diagnosis,” her mother Lauren Burke said. “People with Asperger’s tend to be really good at things.”

And while Burke’s parents notes she prefers to draw animals – especially dragons – she has a very macabre side to her art.

“I’ve always seen some conflict her drawings,” Emily’s father Pat Burke said. “She has cats fighting and wolf fights.”

Emily’s depictions of cats and dogs cover the walls of the MRAC, but as one sifts through prints for sale, more pieces depicting death and bloodstart to appear.

warrior cats

Pat attributes some of her darker work with an infatuation with zombies, but Emily doesn’t see it that way.

She said she naturally started drawing it and that she likes dragons.

“Something she’s told me [is] she drew something she saw in a dream,” Pat said. “Just the other day she showed me a drawing and said it was a ‘dream dog.'”

While Emily’s art has been co-featured at other shows, the work at MRAC was her first independent showing. Her work took up the majority of the space and was advertised as the main spectacle on MRAC’s website.

A percentage of the show’s proceeds have been donated to the Plymouth Meeting Community Program, a soccer club that meets off-season when TOPSoccer, a national soccer club for children with special needs, does not hold practices and games.

Originally published for

Where Religion, History and Art Meet in Philadelphia

Christ Neighborhood Church is located in the perfect nook for a historical building to grow vines and rest for centuries unseen. Just half a block from second and Market st., Christ Neighborhood would be a great spot for “adventurous” tourists to sneak back and take photos of, but this location is not an abandoned spot in the historical neighborhood and it is not primarily snatching up tourists. The building, renovated in 2010, serves as a host to experimental artists and churchgoers alike: a conglomerate of daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, contemporary performances and holy practice in an office space meets American foundation building.



After the 2010 renovation, Anna Drozdowski joined the neighborhood church as the director of programs. “People have been using the neighborhood house since the ’80s,” she notes. “More often we do new and experimental work. The majority of the people that we have here rent the space.” Continue reading

Tangle Movement Arts: Feminism In Action

Tangle Movement Arts is seven-person circus that combines movement with themes of passion and diversity.

The Philadelphia-based group just performed Timelines, which suspends the audience from all predisposed conception of time and reality. The group will performing again on May 3rd, 2014.

Tangle Movement Arts from Greta Iverson on Vimeo.




First Friday? Pshhhh Who Needs That When You Have Cut ‘N’ Paste!

First Friday is a Philly thing. It’s just one of those things, you know? But, after the 5 – 9 p.m. event  in old city, there is plenty do to before either: A. clogging up the expensive old city bars or, B. calling it quits for the night.

Yes, Old City will stay open to accommodate your drinking needs, so fear not if you don’t feel like walking, like, 8 blocks to a different part of the city. Just know that lodged in between the Locust, Walnut, 11th and 12th street, there is a small dive bar that opens its doors to all communities once a month.

This Photo Belongs To Ally Jeanne On Flickr.

This Photo Belongs To Ally Jeanne On Flickr.

Continue reading