Starting on the Bright Side of Life

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Gerry Campbell

By SAIL Member Gerry Campbell

I have a work history in helping people think about and act to make their communities better places to live. In the world of community development studies, there is an approach that emphasizes the strength in communities. This flips the prevailing “look for the problems” approach, which misses what’s good about a community that can be the basis for abundance. John McKnight and Peter Block are leaders in the Abundant Community movement based on their work with the Asset Based Community Development approach. (see 

As I work with my fellows in Sharing Active Independent Lives, we are becoming more aware that our work is limited by our cultural and personal attitudes toward aging. When I google “the assets of aging”, I am immediately sent to financial planning ideas, data on low savings rates for retirement, community assessments of available health sector resources for the elderly, and so on. What if we were to look for the strengths (assets) we bring to our lives as we age? What do we already know about the bright side of our existence at our age? What do people in the fight against ageism already know about the bright side of lived experience? Is the fight against ageism missing a positive message that comes out of the discovery that 65 is an irrelevant application of this number?

In our recent membership survey, we heard about the help SAIL’ers liked and the help they wanted. No surprise. We asked them how the SAIL community could be helped by the SAIL organization. Looking on the bright side suggests we should explore the strengths SAIL’ers bring to our connected life.

I believe we are developing into an organization where sharing our active lives and the experiences we bring serves our independence AND recognizes the power of our connections. We know that what SAIL’ers bring is not just their needs but their experiences. That means we can become creators in our community. Our work to help create affordable senior housing is an example of this new dimension of creating the world we want to live in. When we ask why a SAIL membership matters, our continuing study of ageism suggests we have many opportunities to contribute.


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