The Hartford Foundation recently recognized he 1925 Society, a group of community-minded people who have committed to leave a legacy gift to the Foundation, with a lunch at the Pond House Café in West Hartford. Sixty-eight members of the Greater Hartford community attended, to learn more about the Foundation’s new strategic direction and hear inspiring stories about people who have mastered the art of aging well.
Hartford Foundation President Jay Williams welcomed those in attendance and the Foundation’s new Director of Major Gifts Susan Dana introduced the keynote speaker, wealth manager and author Coventry Edwards-Pitt.
Edwards-Pitt discussed the second book from her series entitled Aged Healthy, Wealthy & Wise, which focuses on designing a vibrant and purposeful later life and legacy. During the course of her engaging and inspiring presentation, Edwards-Pitt shared stories of how people can age well and ensure that their later years have a positive impact on themselves and their families. She emphasized that her book was written for those who have parents at the later stages of life as well as for people navigating those years themselves.
Edwards-Pitt described how most of the people she interviewed didn’t spend much time worrying about many of the issues that come with aging because they were living active, happy and vibrant lives. She discussed some basic principles that these individuals seemed to live by, including agency, growth, engagement and drive (AGED).
Agency, Edwards-Pitt said, is the importance of taking ownership of your role as the author of your life. She gave examples of people who decided that would live their lives on their own terms, including a woman who realized her husband was never going to take her to Paris so she decided to sign up for a group trip without him. Some of the key qualities of people who live with agency, she said, include positivity, a sense of humor, and gratitude for what they have rather than regret about what they no longer possess.
In her discussion on growth, Edwards-Pitt said people who were willing to change and grow are better equipped to enjoy getting older rather than fearing it. The key to this is stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things. One interviewee seemed to be aging backward as he used some of his financial resources to “buy time” with people to teach him things that he had never tried before, including competitive cattle roping, documentary filmmaking and yoga.
Edwards-Pitt described the concept of engagement as being the energy in finding connections to others. She said that relationships are a key to living long and happy lives, but older people often find it challenging to make these types of connections. Many of the people she interviewed said they have become less judgmental as they got older and were more open to meeting people who are different from themselves.
In her research, she discovered most of the subjects of her book had a sense of purpose – or drive - that motivated them. People must ask themselves what they want to do as they get older, and then go out and do it. One successful executive she interviewed had never helped anyone other than his own family throughout his career. In retirement, he became an active volunteer dedicated to helping others.
A key theme in her book is the relationship between parents and their children. Discussing where parents want to live, their end-of-life wishes and the meaning behind their estate planning decisions brings clarity and relieves tension and fear. She encouraged parents and adults with older parents to have these conversations now.
“Speaking as someone whose parents are 93 and 91 years old, many of the things that Ms. Edwards-Pitt shared about how positive attitudes, drive, relationships and sharing with your loved ones truly spoke to me,” said 1925 Society member Wade Vianney. “It provides me with motivation to be more thoughtful and share more with my own family to take advantage of the time we are so blessed to have.”
Attendees also heard from Foundation President Jay Williams, who discussed the Foundation’s current evolution as it seeks to more effectively support the 29 towns it serves. Over the past year and a half, this evolution has included the Greater Together Listening Tour, to hear the aspirations and concerns of local residents. This effort resulted in the creation of the $2.9 million in Greater Together Community Funds, which provide each town with $100,000 in funding for residents to engage in a participatory grantmaking process to identify local projects to support.
Going forward, Williams said, the Foundation plans to be more impactful by working to close the gaps caused by disparities in race, place and income that are a major determinant to a child’s life trajectory.
The Foundation’s work in three primary areas - community and economic development, education and skill attainment from birth to career and community safety – is built around addressing those disparities. He stressed the need for the Foundation to leverage its resources to attract additional investment to increase impact. Williams also emphasized that no single organization can solve these issues on its own and invited those in attendance to partner with the Foundation and other stakeholders to explore new ideas and creative solutions.
Closing out the event, Hartford Foundation Board Member Andrew Worthington echoed Williams’ remarks by urging audience members to share their own ideas about the strategic plan and more closely engage with the Foundation. He also invited them to attend the Hartford Foundation’s Greater Together annual event on October 23 at the Bushnell.