As the Shepherd’s Centers of America network begins to contemplate the 50th anniversary of the first center in 2022, we gain some valuable insight looking back at the historic accomplishment of the moon landing. Here are three takeaways from the Apollo project that I believe are similar to the Shepherd’s Centers network.
- Innovation: NASA developed numerous products to enable man to walk on the moon. Some of these include the computer chip, digital scanner, Velcro, cordless tools, and memory foam. These space-aged inventions are everyday consumer products today. Shepherd’s Center also is a first of its kind for bringing together older adults to learn, grow, and give back. To my knowledge, we are the VERY first community-based model that “disrupts” how society views aging. We predate Village to Village, Encore, Oasis, Faith in Action, and others–all of which do excellent work. Each, however, is based on elements of the Shepherd’s Center model–volunteer caregiving, life-long learning, older adults helping older adults, community collaboration. We should proudly celebrate our place as the first with the vision of empowering older adults as well as promoting values that are far more commonplace in aging services.
- Collaboration: I read that it took more than 400,000 people to make the journey to the moon happen. It was a collective effort with amazing partnerships between the government, private industry and the astronauts—and, ultimately the American public. I also read that the whole world felt united, thinking of it as something “we” all achieved. Shepherd’s Centers are founded on the principle of collaboration, too. Different faith groups, community agencies, and individuals from all walks of life come together. In coming together we can accomplish more than one person or agency can do alone. Moreover, our network is the “we.” When one Shepherd’s Center succeeds, we all succeed. The work we each do coalesces into the collective consciousness of society.
- Commitment: The space race is a great story. It is a tale of perseverance and accomplishment. The choice to go to the moon was more than the “hard” thing–it was about committing to principles and progress for all people. And so is the story of Shepherd’s Centers. It isn’t always easy; it takes commitment to stay the course despite the ups and downs. Sometimes we just have to choose to take the next step…building relationships, meeting new people, expanding our circle, learning, reflecting. The choices we make as a society impact our ideals. Our vision for living a life of meaning is about mobilizing and sustaining our commitment to creating a better today and brighter tomorrow for older adults.
Perhaps when we look up at the moon in the night sky, we’ll remember that the choice for change to improve the lives of older adults is ours to act upon every day. After all, since we can walk on the moon, surely we can care and connect with our neighbors here on earth.