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Next Avenue Names the Most Influential People in Aging

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Dr. Atul Gawande is Next Avenue’s Influencer of the Year

By Liza Kaufman Hogan

Today, Next Avenue released the 2015 Influencers in Aging, its first annual list recognizing 50 inspiring thought leaders, innovators, doctors, authors, advocates, experts, executives and others changing how we age and think about aging.

The list includes 10 honorees in each of the five areas Next Avenue covers: Health & Well-BeingCaregivingMoney & SecurityWork & Purpose and Living & Learning. One honoree, whose impact was especially profound this year, was named Influencer of the Year: Dr. Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

“In recognizing those making a difference in how we live as we grow older, Next Avenue hopes to highlight new ideas, spark conversation and inspire others to engage in this important work,” says Next Avenue Managing Director Susan Donley.

Who Made the List

The 2015 Influencers in Aging list includes author Ai-jen Poo, who is working to improve the quality and availability of in-home care and philanthropist Bernard Osher, who is bringing lifelong learning to colleges and universities around the country. It includes well-known public figures like Maria Shriver, recognized for her work with Alzheimer’s disease and Glen Campbell, who has allowed cameras to roll as he has lived with that disease.

It includes eight doctors working in different areas toward the common goal of improving how we understand, treat and care for older patients. It includes The New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, who tells her own heartbreaking — and, yes, funny — caregiving story in pictures and inventor Barbara Beskind, who is bringing fresh thought to product design at age 91.

How They Would Change Aging in America

As part of the project Next Avenue asked each honoree to answer the question: “If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?” Gawande said it would be “That we ask people facing serious illness/infirmity: What are your top priorities in your life? What is a good day to you? And we listen.”

The change that Lester Strong, CEO of AARP Experience Corps would like to see: that “offering community service would be the norm around the world rather than an exception.”

I would change the perception that getting older means doing less. And that older Americans have less to give.

— Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said, “I would change attitudes so that America’s seniors are afforded the dignity, safety and security they have earned through lifetimes of contribution.”

Vickie Elisa, who promotes financial security for women, said, “I would work to change the perception that you are supposed to lose everything — your looks, sexiness, brain matter and value as a woman once your biological clock passes 25.”

Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said, “I would change the perception that getting older means doing less. And that older Americans have less to give.”

Poo said, “I would create a system to support family and professional caregivers so our elders and all who care for them can live well, with dignity.”

All of the quotes are included in the Influencers in Aging list.

How the Honorees Were Selected

The 50 honorees were selected from hundreds of people working to improve the lives and futures of older adults who include 10,000 boomers turning 65 every day. Next Avenue worked with an advisory panel of 10 experts in health, aging, work, philanthropy and the arts to choose the 50 people with the greatest impact this year. Next Avenue plans to publish a new list of 50 influencers annually, broadening the nomination process to the public next year.

Learn More

> Next Avenue’s Influencers in Aging

Next Avenue (via Twin Cities Public Television) is an Atlantic grantee.

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