A Map to Aging—Volunteers Needed

Maps have been depicting the village, the community, the world, the skies, the universe for thousands of years. In reality, maps are gifts from one generation to another: a visual database of what one person (or people) learned, documented for the benefit of those who may yet travel that way. You can help give such a gift to future travelers.

Early maps readily acknowledged limits to knowledge. The world, once thought to be flat, with the unknown reaches depicted as inhabited by dragons, did not include the whole planet, just those parts explored by humans (with perhaps just a bit of exaggeration or artistic license included to help with map sales).

Fantasy map of a flat earth --- Image by © Antar Dayal/Illustration Works/Corbis

Today we use maps to document where we have been, to see what the path ahead looks like as we begin a journey, and also to identify just where we are in the Big Picture.

Today’s maps, in high resolution (thanks to satellites and mapping tools like Google Earth) have revolutionized the way we look at the world. Not only can they give us spoken, turn-by-turn directions, carefully guiding us to our destinations, rerouting when we fail to heed those directions, but they allow us to zoom in and focus on a particular spot or place.

One map that hasn’t yet been created, however, is the map to navigate old age. Billions of people have travelled the path from birth to death, and we have some ideas about the journey, yet so many questions remain. If we only had a map, as clear as those seen online, that we could use to help us navigate the path, negotiate the unknown. If only those who have gone ahead could somehow document their journeys so that those coming along behind could avoid the shoal, steer clear of the cliff, skirt the pothole, reduce the fear, and enhance the joy of the journey—maybe even giving us spoken, word-for-word directions, or allow us to zoom in and get information about a very specific issue. Good news: they can! Thanks to the miracle of the internet, those in the advance guard, the scouting party, can share what they have found and experienced. Those of us coming along behind can ask questions of them of what to watch out for, what to happily anticipate, and how to travel well. They can give us Their Gift. Their pain need not be wasted.

You are cordially invited to be a volunteer mapmaker, to be part of this advance guard, documenting the questions and the answers that are part of Growing Old and Dying. We’re not looking for what is beyond The Edge (we’ll leave the dragons, angels, and demons to their abodes on the other side of the Great Divide for right now), but we’re looking for help in making the map.

Please be part of the map-making project! This is how you can participate: post a comment and answer the following question:

What is the most important thing you wish you had known before you got old (or wish you could learn before you get old)?

If thousands of collected satellite images can change the way we see the world, imagine what input from thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of voices can do to help us change the way we approach (and experience) aging. Please join the conversation and share your thoughts. You can leave comments here, or go to the LinkedIn post to join the conversation with a broader community.

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