The beginning of a new year signals fresh thoughts of better habits, lasting relationships and improved health.
For me it is a time to reflect on the state of affairs for those of us in the 55 and above club.
How will we live? Where will we live? What will we do that will bring us happiness and give back to the world we live in?
How are those who are already living in assisted living and nursing homes fairing?
Will medical science come up with ways to keep us off walkers and out of wheel chairs?
Will we remain healthy or not?…will be become closer to families and friends,…get our affairs in order and discuss them with our offspring. These are questions we all face at the same time as many still struggle with texting and tweeting.
What can each of us do to plan for the future and precisely what should we do starting immediately to help insure that the lives of those we love as well as those we will never meet, have healthier, richer, more meaningful lives?
It is the last thought I would like to share with you for this first column of 2015. I think about it a great deal both personally and in my role as a columnist and editor of this weekly newsletter.
I am optimistic that life will be better as more people recognize that our demographic is so large we cannot be denied. We do control more than 3/4 of America’s wealth. We have learned over our lives that money talks, yet we remain silent.
I worry because no matter how many articles I read about baby boomers changing the face of aging and older people swallowing up technology of all sorts, I do not see the recognition and respect for “elders” that I see in other groups…i.e. women, gays, people of color. I also do not see a strong unified, growing grassroots movement within our ranks of some 80 million people 55 and older, speaking up, demanding equal rights as other groups have done.
The odd part about the lack of movement is that those who fought so valiantly for gay marriage, integration, equality of women are themselves today a member of the “elder” generation. Where are their voices and yours when it comes to ageism, such as the disgraceful treatment in nursing homes where abuse is common?
Where is the chorus of protest against those ravaged with frailty and dementia as family members abandon them or quietly empty their savings?
Where are the voices of proponents of equality when it comes to job discrimination against people over 55? Why do we merely grumble among ourselves but do nothing to protest advertising for fashion aimed at bodies we can no longer be certain we once had?
Women over 50 spend $21 billion on clothes annually yet there is not one pictured on the pages of Vogue?
Why do we accept leisure travel campaigns aimed only at families with young children or glamorous couples in their 30's when we represent more than 50% of all vacations dollars spent in America?
In almost ever category from food away from home, entertainment, personal care and gifts we outspend the average consumer yet we remain invisible other than when we are pictured as foolish as in the “she is writing on her wall” television ad or hurricane walking aids and incontinent diapers.
When are we going to be the voice of elder hood and demand to be recognized as the competent, experienced, intelligent, savvy and most of all respected group we are?
The world has never before had a group of human beings as large as we are (and growing) today. We should be front and center but we mostly hidden and silent.
There are those who are trying to make changes. The problems of this aging and old population have been apparent to many professionals for years.
In 1990, the late Robert N. Butler M.D, founded the International Longevity Center as a research and education organization to respond to the twentieth century phenomena of great longevity and population aging.
The center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City was created along with the word ageism. Dr. Butler’s concern for the changes that are now occurring throughout the world was developed to change the face of “old age” from end of the line to a vital stage of life rather than as a burden on society. It continues to explore everything that affects this demographic from better care for the ill to inter generational interaction and continued working opportunities within communities.
There are other encouraging signs of change such as gerontologist and author Bill Thomas . He created the Greenhouse project to replace traditional institutional hospital-like models. Projects such as he envisioned are cropping up around the country.
Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Encore.org has pioneered a movement to encourage people past midlife to engage in new and exciting careers to solve world problems during the 30 or more years they will live beyond retirement.
Another movement called Village to Village Network supports communities that are willing to create villages where elders live in their own homes among younger people who volunteer to help them with daily living.
There are many others though assorted sponsorships from independent living facilities to assisted and nursing homes striving to make life better for our lives.
In order to make our lives what we want them to be however, I am convinced that those who want life to be full, rich and meaningful must step up and act, step out and speak. We must form grassroots efforts to let everyone from 26 year old technology geeks to 35 year old advertising executives that we are alive, we are vital, we demand to be seen and heard from.
Imagine where women, blacks, gays would be today if they had stayed hidden and quiet. We must follow their lead or accept life as hard of hearing geezers who lack sexual appetites….as people who must stop working at an arbitrary age whether we want to or not, accept elder abuse as sad but…., and remain silent.
How can we make changes we want to see? Weight Watcher started with an overweight woman name Jean Nidetch in 1961 Meetings began in her Queens, NY apartment. Apple Inc. creators Steve Job and Steve Wozniak began in a garage.
Great accomplishments begin with small ideas. What are we waiting for? Gather a few friends and talk about what you would like to see happen. It is amazing what can come out of a coffee meet around kitchen table. We do not have time to sit still.