The more we talk about aging, the more we see it

Roxanne Cornell believes the key to facing aging in Minnesota is talking about it. “I think the more we talk about it, the more we see it, which is a good thing. It’s a call to action.”

At 63, Roxanne is a clinical social worker of over thirty years and former life-care planner for a group of lawyers specializing in elder care. She now owns and operates a home on Lake Nokomis shared by a group of women in their 60s and 70s.

In her own neighborhood in South Minneapolis, Roxanne has responded to an increased need for volunteer drivers for older adults. She recently drove an older woman to Home Depot to get some hanging plants.

Roxanne emphasizes ageism as an underrated problem we must address as a society. “The media often portrays older adults as having lost their minds and having no brains or opinions, no voice. It’s an ugly misinterpretation of what aging really is. We’re changing that by having Face Aging MN and other people talk about what’s real. It’s like any ‘ism’ – we’ve got to tell stories to get to the other side of that ‘ism’ and see what’s real.”

Roxanne Cornell

Roxanne’s own older relatives have passed away, but she always treasured the relationship she had with her uncle and other close relatives. “My elders are gone – and boy, when they’re gone the hole is deep,” says Roxanne. “It’s a tough thing sometimes. But what an honor to have heard their stories. That continues in my family with the offspring now. The majority of them just love when we come around, because now we’re the storytellers.”

How we care for our elders is a humanitarian issue, says Roxanne. “It’s how we create societies that are caring and loving and gentle.” One way we can do that is to reach the people we voted for to carry our voice to the state level. “We need to start at the local level and our own communities first,” says Roxanne. “We need to have these conversations with city council members, with our neighbors. We need to start talking or continue to talk. We’re ill-prepared in this country for the older adult population and how we’re going to care for them.”

The bottom line? “You’re lucky if you age,” Roxanne says. “People fear it, but you’re lucky if you get older. It means you’re alive and engaged in life. You’re lucky if you get there. That’s what I wish people understood. It’s a gift.”

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