Group of senior friends support concept

Aging is Cool: Sleepaway Camp

One couple is changing the face of aging in our world by showing everyone how cool it can be!

What if we viewed aging as a new adventure instead of yielding to society’s accepted norm of inevitable decline in physical and mental health, losing independence, and dying alone? Why have we viewed our “golden years” as a time of loss and decay rather than a time of growth?  What if aging is actually cool?

These are the questions that Amy and Damien Temperley began asking a few years ago as they created Aging is Cool, a company with a nonprofit arm based in Austin, Texas, that provides programs and services to help older adults Stay Strong, Stay Smart, and Stay Social.

Looking Beyond the Status Quo

For over 25 years, Amy had worked in the nonprofit sector predominantly with frail older adults who needed daily care or were dealing with a dementia diagnosis. London-born Damien was seeing a more active side of aging as a fitness instructor for a local senior center.  Together, they were both seeing gaps in service provision and the need to develop more evolved programming.

Many older adult programs were lacking depth in learning components and weren’t geared for the needs and interests of baby boomers as they hit retirement age. Fitness programs focused on every part of the body, except the part that controls it all, the brain. And finally, programs weren’t creating space to truly engage with others or find purpose and meaning.

Older adults of today are different than they were 20 years ago. Bingo, bridge, cards, and dominoes, though fun, do not meet the needs of baby boomers who are much more interested in how to stay active and engage with their world.

To top it off, social isolation has been identified as the new health crisis of our generation. Lack of human contact has serious physiological consequences. Recent studies show that social isolation can impact your physical, mental and cognitive health.  A study conducted by health insurer Cigna, suggests that loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.

A Better Way to Age

“I wanted a class that would challenge the brain, but the class had to be fun and enjoyable,” says Damien. “I want to challenge brains to work in ways that they may have never done before. This is how you get the biggest gains.”

In January 2017, Aging is Cool was born with a focus on reducing isolation, increasing physical activity, and maintaining cognitive function. It began with a membership program in South Austin and a summer camp called Camp Meraki. Through the membership program, older adults gained access to over 20 classes each month that included fitness, social activities, and Stay Smart, a signature brain training program created by Damien.

Camp Meraki, a three-day, two-night summer camp for adults 60+, includes everything you remember from your youth: canoeing, archery, campfires, sing-a-longs, tie-dye, arts and crafts, bunk beds, and, of course, (since we are all adults) Happy Hour!

Aging Couldn’t Be Any Cooler

Over the past two years, Aging is Cool has evolved to provide over 40 classes (fitness, brain training, arts, music, discussion groups, and educational presentations) to over 50 sites in Central Texas including retirement communities, assisted living, senior apartments, parks and recreation sites, and community centers. They additionally have specially trained instructors who can provide one-on-one visits in private homes for those who have limited mobility or transportation.

A key component of the Aging is Cool program is that each class builds in an opportunity to get to know someone else in the room.  “We have been amazed not only by the interest in our programming but the side-effects as well,” says Amy Temperley. “Every day we watch new friendships evolve. Our members have lunch together, go to movies and plays, check in on each other when someone is ill. It is more than we had expected and rewarding to watch community develop organically.”

You’ll find members to be happier and healthier since they started taking classes and they are eager to share what the programs have done for them. “The path you have chosen has been absolutely life changing for all the older adults fortunate enough to have found your exceptional classes. In every class, you inspire us, make us stronger, take away our pains, make us feel joyous and happy,” states an appreciative member.

So how can you ensure that aging is cool for you? According to Damien, find ways to incorporate five key things in your life:  physical activity, mental stimulation, social engagement, purpose and meaning, and gratitude. Stay cool folks!

Check out the Aging is Cool website for more information and treat your brain to a little workout right now with a free sample class.  You’ll be amazed!