Now, if you're a person who is described as a wounded warrior,
you don't have a loss of capacity; you have different capacities that can be exploited.
One person that I have a high regard for is a person named Fay Wells.
Fay Wells was a contemporary of Amelia Earhart.
She was flying airplanes before women were supposed to wear pants.
And I would show her picture, that I got from the National Geographic magazine,
to my medical students year in and year out,
as a model of what we call successful aging.
In the particular picture, she's in her 90s.
She's very fashionable. She's got a twinkle in her eye.
Just a wonderfully rich kind of thing.
And one of my students said to me one year,
"I know that woman. She's my friend's grandmother.
She lives in Northern Virginia. Here's her email."
And so I started emailing Fay Wells,
and I asked her in her last email, a couple of weeks before she died,
what is the key to successful aging?
And she said to pursue the unexpected opportunities that life offers.
She said everything meaningful in her life, including flying airplanes
with Amelia Earhart, being the White House correspondent
for The New York Tribune newspaper,
everything important in her life came totally unexpectedly.
So we have a person who now, unexpectedly, acquires a traumatic brain injury
in Afghanistan or Iraq or some other place.
Unexpectedly, they are there. I know a number of families
and a number of people who've survived such injuries,
who've crawled out of the cave in ways that inspire me
to change the world, quite literally.
Change the world, quite literally, by advocating
for new programs, by advocating in general the policy people
in nonsectarian, nonpartisan kinds of ways.
I would challenge the wounded warriors who are listening to this
to become social-change agents and leaders for the greater good.
Take their problem into an opportunity
and help make the world better for others.
They don't have a loss of capacity, they have different capacities.
And because they have different capacities, they can do some pretty rich things.
Lots of ways to promote successful aging,
and many of those wrap around being socially engaged
in the world around each of us.
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Veterans with TBI should not look at their loss of capacities but rather their different capacities. Dr. Paul Aravich cites examples of people who age successfully by turning their problems into opportunities.
Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough, Justin Rhodes, and Erica Queen, BrainLine.
Paul Aravich, PhD is a behavioral neuroscientist and professor of Pathology and Anatomy, Geriatrics, and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia.
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