You’ve heard of wish-granting groups for kids. Now there’s one for adults over the age of 65. Denver, Colo.-based Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime (http://seniorwish.org), is the brainchild of Jeremy Bloom, a former Olympic skier and NFL player.
In a youth-obsessed culture, seniors’ desires–and sometimes even their value to society– frequently are eclipsed by the needs of and the focus on younger generations. But the dreams of those over age 65 are just as compelling as those of children.
Bloom was strongly influenced by his grandparents as a young child. And after traveling around the globe during his sports career and seeing the value other cultures placed on their elders and the respect that they commanded, he made a commitment to honor seniors and change society’s perception of them.
The venture has grown steadily, starting with four wishes granted in 2008 to 191 granted in 2011. “Our mission is to use these wishes and seniors’ stories to change how society views aging,” comments Tom Wagenlander, Wish of a Lifetime’s assistant director.
The humblest generation
What’s striking is the simplicity of many seniors’ wishes. One woman wanted to plant a tree to help preserve California’s Mount Diablo. A WWII vet wished to visit a military buddy he hadn’t seen in 20 years. And one woman wanted to perform a piano recital. Other wishes have included skydiving and behind-the-scenes zoo tours.
And frequently it’s others, not seniors themselves, who nominate wish candidates. Many seniors aren’t, Wagenlander has found, comfortable asking for something for themselves. “It’s a very humble generation,” he says.
Another aim of the organization is delivering life-enriching benefits beyond the wish experience. For instance, Wish of a Lifetime took 12 veterans to visit Washington, D.C., war monuments and to meet with former Senator Bob Dole last year.
Some were in uniform, which attracted attention, and both adults and kids approached the group to ask about their war experiences. Such a response is precisely the outcome Wish of a Lifetime hopes for. “We saw that cross-generational connection,” observes Wagenlander. “By sharing their stories, they could inspire others to change their views on aging. And it’s a way to show appreciation for all the sacrifice and contributions they’ve made throughout their lives.”
While money is always welcome, there are other significant ways for people to contribute.
For one, you can nominate a senior and work with Wish of a Lifetime to plan and execute the grating of the wish. Or you could do footwork and planning for someone’s dream your community.
Making in-kind contributions, whether that’s offering hotel rooms or donating services, is another option.
“We want volunteers to take ownership of the wish,” says Wagenlander. “Sometimes you make a financial contribution to an organization and feel good about it. With us, you can witness and be a part of a life-changing experience.”
By Elyse Umlauf-Garneau