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Someone You Should Know: Pat Ward-Baker

(WHAM photo)

Don’t believe everything you hear about aging. A local woman is spreading the message that the party can continue into our 80s and 90s. Pat Ward-Baker is a living example of that, and she is Someone You Should Know.

Pat wasn’t always an expert on aging well. She was a stockbroker before earning her PhD in gerontology – at the age of 75! Now, she’s 86 and walking the walk she talks about.

“We can look forward to growing and developing and having a meaningful life in our 80s and 90s and beyond,” Pat told 13WHAM. “It’s an old-fashioned idea, that we have to decline.”

Pat’s research focused on people who were 85 and over, and bucking the stereotype that aging is just about declining until we die.

“I hear a lot of people say, ‘What’s next? What’s next?’ That does seem to be the question, when we retire: What’s next?” she said.

"That’s your chance to be what, maybe, you’ve always wanted to be or do, or have part in,” she continued.

In fact, many of the people Pat interviewed were still working, in some form, into their 90s!

“They were working at something about which they were passionate, about which they cared, and that gave some kind of structure and shape to their lives, and some kind of meaning,” said Pat.

Perhaps you saw the story of a 94-year-old woman who ran a half-marathon this weekend. Not everyone can do that, but exercise can dramatically improve our well-being as we age.

A less-obvious factor, perhaps, is resilience – how we respond when bad or sad things happen to us.

“If you just curl up and disappear, it’s not going to be good,” she said. “But if you can say, ‘Alright, this has happened, what shall I do about it? How can I deal with it?’ And, ‘This is my next step.’”

“Getting older is an achievement,” she added. “The experience that you have, I think, gives you a greater amount of control of who you are and what your life can be like.”

Sharing an optimistic view about aging: It makes Pat Ward-Baker Someone You Should Know.

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