Dudley and Chris Tower want to retire some old paradigms about aging.
The very definition of the word retire — to withdraw, or go away or apart, to a place of privacy, shelter, or seclusion — is “old school,” according to the Towers, and they’re working to give it new meaning.
The couple, who live at The Cliffs at Glassy, teach the intriguing Dynamic Aging Program at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Furman University. They’ve also led an informal, salonstyle group based on the program for residents at The Cliffs.
“The old approach to retirement emphasizes a partial disengagement from the workings of society, while keeping active or busy for as long as you can,” Dudley Tower explains. “But that paradigm can escalate cognitive decline. We need to stay engaged. Our minds need to be sufficiently challenged in order to create the brain cells and neural pathways necessary for a healthy aging brain.”
While most people anticipate retirement as a time to pursue more hobbies, or as a season to volunteer, many find the reality less than fulfilling. There’s a documented “rush-crash” syndrome that often occurs a few years post-work — and oftentimes that’s incentive to approach the golden years in a different way. Indeed, it was the motivation behind the Towers’ Dynamic Aging Program.
“We need new purpose in this extended phase of life,” says Tower, noting that he and Chris met in business school at UCLA, joined the Peace Corps, and then moved on to corporate careers. After battling cancer, he shifted to psychology, earning two master’s degrees — one in clinical psychology, the other in organizational development — along with a Ph.D. in human and organizational systems. “Older people can become a force for good and positive change in this world.”
He created DAP six years ago as a way to share his personal experience of an alternative way to approach aging and retirement that is healthier, happier, and more aligned with today’s rapidly changing world. The program is a multi-disciplinary approach to optimal aging, based on the latest research in the fields of psychology, gerontology, neuroscience, systems theory, sociology, nutrition, and age-appropriate exercise. Chris Tower — who holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and an MBA in marketing and cognitive behavior — teaches with her husband in a close partnership. He focuses on research and theory; she provides real-world examples and a relatable, personal touch. Just as doctors advocate physical exercise to keep the body functioning optimally, the Towers advocate keeping the mind active via meaningful engagement. That means actively engaging with people, things, the environment, learning and the self, developing a clear self-perception, and becoming more autonomous, among other steps.
“Wellness is more than exercise and nutrition,” Tower says. “It’s also about social relationships and it’s psychological. You have to be happy with yourself from the inside out.”
Peter McNaughton graduated from DAP at OLLI and then joined the smaller, more intimate discussion group at The Cliffs. He says the program led to a deeper understanding of himself and stoked a desire to help others.
With its emphasis on wellness and active amenities, “The Cliffs provides an extraordinary opportunity to live our remaining years in a community of like-minded people in a fantastic setting,” says McNaughton, but it’s still imperative to develop a sense of purpose. “It is healthy to stop and take a close look at ourselves, to learn where self-improvement is possible. This takes some courage and vulnerability, but the rewards are endless and truly enlightening.”
This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.