“Grow old with me! The best is yet to be.” ~ Robert Browning ~
Society subscribes to a long-held belief that old age is static. And yet, for most seniors, life is as dramatic and dynamic as it was when they were young.
Gerontologist Vassar Byrd, one of the Keynote Speakers at Naropa University’s upcoming event, Compassionate Approaches to Aging and Dying, is passionately committed to breaking down incorrect and even offensive assumptions of aging by completely redefining the mind-set of getting older.
As the energetic and dedicated CEO of Rose Villa, a not-for-profit, unique active senior living community, Vassar’s goal is to promote an independent culture and welcoming community of vigorous and optimistic seniors who continue to look forward to what life has to offer rather than settling for a sedentary lifestyle.
Vassar believes in empowering seniors to free themselves from discrimination and embrace the right of every person to age with dignity. She reminds us of the importance of continually renewing, expanding and deepening relationships to maintain pride, energy and personal growth for every individual, regardless of race, religion or gender. The sad reality, even today, is that many LGBTQ seniors are being marginalized and shunned by senior living facilities. With this in mind, Vassar has established a pro-active LGBTQ outreach at Rose Villa, and several gay, lesbian and transgender people, individually and in couples, now reside there.
Vassar recognizes that collaboration between families and seniors is also an essential component of healthy aging. When parents age, there is a shift in the parent-child relationship, and it is interesting to see how the transformation ripples through family connections.
Vassar advocates the need for families to understand and accept that the mind-set of seniors is changing. She notes that children are often surprisingly conservative when caring for their parents. Many of them think that the most important component of life for their parents is safety. For active, energetic and outgoing seniors, however, this is often at the very bottom of their list. They still have plenty of life left to live and they want to be able to live it fully, with as few restraints as possible. Vassar is a staunch proponent of fostering independence in seniors. As long as seniors are cognitively able to make decisions, Vassar believes families should be fully committed to helping them fulfill their wishes.
As Vassar continually reimagines and enriches the concept of aging, she remains fully committed to encouraging everyone in society to work together to create a positive and uplifting outlook on life for seniors.
After all, we will all be in their shoes one day, so who wouldn’t want to live a full, rich and authentic life?
Vassar Byrd is the Chief Executive Officer of Rose Villa, a not-for-profit active senior living community. Vassar graduated with a ME in Economics from the London School of Economics and worked as an economist in Washington, DC and Portland, OR.
After ten years in the field of economics, Vassar chose to change her career entirely for the opportunity to work in not-for-profit senior living. She obtained an MA in Gerontology from Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado, and became CEO at Rose Villa in 2007.
Vassar’s goal is to continually renew, expand and deepen relationships between residents and staff, and to maintain pride, energy, and personal growth for every individual connected to Rose Villa. She is passionate about working to break down the negative stereotyping of aging and foster a community spirit in envisioning senior living in new and innovative ways.
Vassar brings a broad base of experience, facilitating new development and senior living initiatives which are key to the financial success and renewed strength of the Rose Villa community today.Vassar Byrd