Collaboration (photo by Annie Lin, CC-BY-SA).
STAY ACTIVE. This is probably the most prominent theme I've observed — retirees who remain physically and/or mentally active tend to be happier and healthier. “Active” can mean very different things for different people: OpenIDEO community members have shed light on inspiring elders who continue doing yoga well into their 80s, participate in competitive rowing, travel frequently, create artwork, go back to school to get advanced degrees, etc. Regardless of the details of their activities, the lesson seems to be to continue exercising one's body and mind regularly!
STAY SOCIAL. A theme that emerged early on is the value derived from belonging to a community and having regular social interactions. Not exclusive to elders but perhaps especially important for elders, the benefits of community come through from a variety of amazing inspirations — ranging from a community of trailer parks where seniors live and socialize together, to social clubs that encourage retirees to meet new people and try out new experiences, to certain family arrangements that keep elders tightly integrated into the rest of the family's social life. These human communities seem to give elders emotional fulfillment and support, and help them keep their mind sharp. Furthermore, OpenIDEATORS have demonstrated that there is a synergetic relationship between staying social and staying active: friends push each other to remain active, and engaging in physical and mental exercises is a great way to make friends! The Inspirations Phase has also seen amazing examples of happy seniors who interact regularly with younger generations — by teaching skills to them, telling stories to them, partaking in social activities with them, etc. — which also seems to provide the elders with a fulfilling sense of purpose after retirement.
MENTALITY MATTERS. The OpenIDEO community also touched repeatedly upon the importance of the psychology of aging. People's expectations and mindset toward getting old seem to play a key role in how happy or healthy they remain as they age. OpenIdeators have shared a variety of stories about truly incredible elders who — instead of adopting a more negative outlook on life — actually see old age as a golden opportunity to pursue new adventures, travel to new places, do more learning, and master existing skills.
These are just three of the main themes I've observed so far! They certainly do not come close to covering the entire spectrum and depth of the inspirations that the OpenIDEO community has submitted. What patterns and themes have jumped out at you? Share your thoughts below!