Ellen Goodman is the Co-Founder of The Conversation Project, a public engagement initiative of The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care.
Goodman is a Pulitzer Prize-winning longtime syndicated columnist for The Boston Globe and the Washington Post Writers Group, and serves on the board of Encore.org, working to transform the narrative around aging and encourage older Americans to make a difference in their communities.
Why and how did you get into the aging space?
I got older. That’s it in a nutshell or in sensible shoes. I had experience. I had stuff to learn and stuff to teach.
From your experience doing this work what is the most important part of aging successfully?
Keeping a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. Connecting with younger and older people, reaching across the generational divide. Fight your own ageism because it will come back to bite you. Be a beginner.
If you could show a young person their life thirty years into the future, what would you hope that they would discover that might change their lives today?
Don’t wear high heels. Don’t start hating the way you look at 50. Pay attention to your friendships. Be a beginner. Look forward. The whole idea that your life is over or that you are headed out to pasture or the golf course—although nothing wrong with golf—
What are you most passionate about these days in this sector?
Fighting the generational war.
What, in your opinion, is the most common roadblock a person faces when planning for their lives ahead? What are some ways one can overcome these blockages?
Ageism. Ego. Self doubt. Fear. Be flexible and part of that is preparing for next stages.
After the year we’ve all had, what are your goals in doing this work in 2021?
I pretty much think we have to fight the generational divide. The virus dealt with old people as if the best they could do for their country was, literally, nothing. Stay inside and on zoom and wash your groceries. The older people thought that the younger generation were irresponsible risk takers. We have continued to think that the older people are either blocking the pipeline and keeping young people out of the jobs. Or retiring and eating up the resources. But in reality, we are the fastest growing age segment. We have huge amount to contribute . see Joe Biden. We have another act. And that act entails thinking of the future. We need to be needed. And we are.