Based on the science of aging and longevity, I can expect to live to almost 100 years of age. With this in mind, I realized 20-plus years as a Professor was enough. I loved mentoring students and colleagues of all ages and being the Director of the Brain and Behavior Laboratory as a tenured Full Professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, but it was time to make a change. If I didn't, I would likely be in the same office and teaching the same courses for another 25 years – and not living my 100-year life to its fullest potential.
As an audiologist and neuroscientist, I loved making new discoveries in support of healthy aging. And by anyone's definition, I experienced success. I'm an invited consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO) who contributed to the “World Report on Ageing and Health,” and co-authored the WHO's recent “Guidelines for Integrated Care for Older People.” I judge research grants around the world, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and I've published nearly 100 articles on the topic of hearing loss and aging. I was successful in competing for NIH research funds during my entire academic career.
But even I, a subject matter expert on aging, had no idea how challenging it would be to support my own parents as they grew older. It was a profound experience that changed how I saw aging, and how I wanted to age. It was frustrating to see so many science-based solutions not being implemented or being made available to the public. I saw gaps in services and technology that, if filled, could have made growing older more fulfilling for them – and eventually for you and for me. I also witnessed how little support is available for individuals who are dealing with issues related to advancing age, while also caring for a spouse or partner or friend. People, who while serving as caregivers, are trying to maintain their own peak performance at work and remain relevant in a rapidly changing employment setting with people half their age.
This point is important because we're living and working in a time of longevity; the world's population is living longer than ever. And, if we're going to live longer, we're also going to need to learn longer in order to earn longer. Surveys consistently show that almost half of employees ages 45-70 envision working into their 70s or beyond, and annual job growth rates continue to be largest for people over 55 than for younger age groups. Tremendous strength that comes with maturity and experience: The Harvard Business Review describes the average age of a successful startup founder to be 45. The question is, what comes next?
Because I believe advocacy and action are inseparable from one another, I felt a calling to leave the laboratory to put in place real-world solutions that can improve the quality of our lives over time. As a neuroscientist who understands our brain's capacity, and our potential to flourish across our lifetime, I reimagined my own five-year, 10-year, and 20-year plans with longevity and my personal values in mind. The result? I retired from the traditional academic track and founded "Lend an Ear" coaching and consulting.
My life's second act is dedicated to supporting innovators and futurists who are committed to keeping our aging world connected and productive through advances in psychology and technology. My mission is to help people live, learn, and earn longer through coaching and consulting.