Posted by suzanne on Oct 1, 2014
Older adults need to be celebrated as people: As human beings and as unique and special individuals. It is refreshing to see positive images of older adults because often they are viewed in negative ways: As a drain on society, as consumers, as past some best before date, or even as invisible in society.
Within in society, images and perspectives of older adults, aging and later life matter. These impact people.
The theory of Symbolic Interactionism indicates that our view of older adults and aging develops through interaction with other people. In essence, our sense of self is influenced by how we are viewed by others or put another way, we view ourselves through the eyes of others. It can be argued that this ‘view’ extends to social institutions and structures in society and the way they portray older adults. These portrayals and perspectives contribute to the social discourse surrounding later life and influence how we view others as well as how we view ourselves as we age.
Hence, I was very pleased to read recent copies of Revera Living magazine. This publication portrays and celebrates older adults as the real, vital and interesting people that they are. The magazine recognizes each individual as unique, with something to offer. This sentiment is important every day, but especially on October 1st, International Day of Older Persons.
Posted by suzanne on Aug 3, 2014
This August, it is timely to recognize leading-edge American social activist Maggie Kuhn for her work in the field of aging. August 3rd marks the 109th year since her birth. Maggie was a champion of aging and the later years. She founded the Gray Panthers in August 1970.
Maggie’s work is notable not only because she was ahead of her time with her vision. She also broke stereotypes and, at age 65, embarked on the most important work of her life. In fact, rather than accept being pushed into a quiet retirement by her employer and societal pressure, she chose to take action and work for the rights of older people. After being forced into retirement from the Presbyterian Church, Maggie, along with her friends who found themselves in similar circumstances, organized and founded the group that became the Gray Panthers. The organization focused on the issues of older people including pensions and pension rights, health care and age discrimination. Gray Panthers also addressed the larger social issues of the time such as the Vietnam War.
“By the year 2020, the year of perfect vision, the old will outnumber the young.”
Maggie was a charismatic and energetic leader. She advocated for older adults to have a voice and the opportunity to provide input into programs, practice and social policy. She encouraged older adults to stay involved and take action on social issues. In doing so, she started a cultural revolution.
Maggie also believed in the power of intergenerational connection. One of her mantras was ‘Young and old together’. Under her guidance, Gray Pantners came to represent the possibility and power of later life and to stand for social and economic justice and peace for all ages. The organization’s motto is ‘Age and Youth in Action’ very much echoing Maggie’s sentiments. Maggie herself demonstrated how older adults can be active in the world, working for social issues that are important to them.
“Learning and sex until rigor mortis.”
Until her death at age 89, Maggie continued her work as an activist and advocate. She redefined aging and is a role model to all of us – women and men, young and old alike.
“There must be a goal at every stage of life! There must be a goal!”
Maggie Kuhn was a visionary leader. She inspired many people to view aging differently. She left an incredible legacy. Unfortunately, ageism, discrimination and lack of intergenerational connection continue to be issues that require attention in our society. These are barriers to a cultural revolution that would shift our society from a youth-oriented culture to a society for all ages. In our aging society, we need more people like Maggie to help move the cultural revolution forward.
Posted by suzanne on Jul 15, 2014
‘Young and older together.’ This was a mantra of Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Grey Panthers in the United States. Maggie was ahead of her time in recognizing aging as an issue and redefining what aging means in society.
As human beings, we need strong bonds and connections to individuals of all ages. It is up to all of us to cultivate these interactions and relationships so we can reap the many rewards. Individuals and communities benefit from intergenerational experiences.
Recently, I was quoted in the Grey Bruce Kids magazine about intergenerational interaction. Kristen B. Dyer, the author, encourages children and their parents to seek out or create intergenerational opportunities. Please check out the article “Intergenerational Bridges’ in the June issue.
Catch the joy of intergenerational interaction!
Posted by suzanne on Jun 12, 2014
June is Seniors’ Month. In fact, the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat explains that this year’s theme is ‘Aging Without Boundaries’ as we mark 30 years of celebrating seniors. It is amazing to see, highlight and recognize the contributions that older adults make to their communities everyday. It is important to acknowledge their achievements and to support their work.
However, the image and concept of ‘senior’ no longer fits today’s older adults. Older adults might not want to be associated with the term ‘senior’ because they believe it really does not reflect them. Negative images predominate and overshadow any positive potential images. Older adults do not want to be labelled and viewed with the negative connotations associated with the term ‘senior’.
This is an issue that needs attention. To truly celebrate older adults, we need new language and new ways to discuss and honour later life and aging. This is one reason why I am producing a documentary film about healthy aging. With this film, more diverse images and positive role models of later life can be shared.
Moreover, as the population ages, it is about more than having a longer lifespan. It is critical to have a longer ‘healthspan’. It is about finding ways to foster adding more life to the gift of years individuals are blessed with. This is why healthy aging is important.
Posted by suzanne on Jan 24, 2014
Older adults are lifelong learners. They like to learn new things and there is a need to celebrate the learning of all age groups. This is especially the true for seniors. The myth that older adults don’t like technology is being challenged; more and more older adults are embracing technology.
Often, older adults jump at the chance to be shown how technology can make a difference in their lives and how they can better use it. I hear anecdotal reports of grandchildren teaching a grandparent how to use a cell phone or iPad. The wonders of technology can be taught intergenerationally, as the program Cyber-Seniors and the great new documentary film of the same name indicate.
Older adults’ openness to technology is evident when statistics on technology use are reported. More than half of seniors are on-line. Those age 65 and older use the Internet and email, with technology users usually active on-line on a daily basis. For example, among those seniors who use the Internet, 70% go on-line daily. This breaks stereotypes many of us hold of older adults!
Seniors like to research government websites, obtain financial information, such as stock quotes or check mortgage rates, or search for health information on-line. And 44% of seniors age 65 to 73 watch videos on-line, with 34% of them visiting social media sites. In addition, a large proportion of seniors – 7 out of 10 – own a cell phone. Check out the PEW report on Older Adults and Internet Use.
Stimulating curiosity and intellectual growth and development are the real joys of learning. Grey hair or not, we are all lifelong learners! Sometimes older adults need support and encouragement to try something new. It is time to debunk negative stereotypes of aging and develop more intergenerational programs. There is great joy and vitality when the generations interact. A special opportunity to view Cyber-Seniors is available through the Peterborough International Film Festival this weekend.
Posted by suzanne on Jun 28, 2013
Many factors have impacted our image of retirement with the traditional age for retirement influencing expectations in particular. Age sixty-five looms large as a magical age for retirement and seniorhood. Yet, this was not always the case.
Retirement is a social construction. In the past, there was no retirement. There were few elderly people because it was rare for someone to reach old age.
When retirement was first conceived in 1883 by Chancellor Otto Von Bismark of Germany, western society was different. Perspectives were different. Sixty-five years of age was chosen for an individual to receive a pension; however, this was with the expectation that most individuals would never live long enough to actually retire and collect the pension.
A lot has changed. Older adults are healthier and life expectancy has increased significantly over the past 130 years.
Individuals want to remain active and engaged. It is no longer your grandmother’s or your grandfather’s retirement.
Posted by suzanne on Jun 13, 2013
June is important to recognize as Seniors’ Month in Canada. This is good reason and an excellent opportunity for communities to celebrate seniors and the role they play in society, to increase awareness of seniors programs, services and policies and to redefine aging and seniorhood.
Despite the aging population in Canada, unfortunately, there have been few innovative and creative celebrations and events in honour of Seniors’ Month.
One stood out: I attended some of the Seniors’ Month offerings in Peterborough, Ontario. I met some amazing seniors and people who care about seniors. The programs and events in Peterborough were wonderful.
There is a lot happening this month for Peterborough Seniors’ Month. Check it out!
Posted by suzanne on May 31, 2013
June 1st is Intergenerational Day, with more than 100 cities across Canada participating. This day highlights the benefits of intergenerational relationships.
Intergenerational engagement means connecting the generations – not siloing them – and it encourages social inclusion. Young people keep seniors young and seniors provide young people with a broader perspective on their experiences. Social interaction between young and old creates stronger bonds between the generations and breaks negative stereotyping.
Seniors and elders are role models of healthy aging for the younger ages. In fact, my grandfather was my role model. He inspired me in my work.
How are you exploring the ‘intergenerational’ in life? How often do you see the older adults, and those younger than you, who are in your life?
Congratulations Sharon MacKenzie of i2i for excellent work on Intergenerational Day.
Posted by suzanne on May 21, 2013
In my work, I meet seniors regularly, and recently, on separate occasions, I had the privilege of speaking with a 100-year-old woman, a 95-year-old man and a 74-year-old man.
I like speaking with seniors and elders. Our conversations are refreshing and invigorating. The discussion is engaging and stimulating. It is a great joy to speak to interesting individuals with so much to share.
From these conversations, I am reminded that one key to healthy aging is connection. Whether you are an energetic senior or elder or a more frail one, it is important to find the opportunity for connection.
In fact, this is true for human beings across the life course from cradle to grave. I am quite aware that I gain as much from these conversations as the seniors and elders do themselves.
We are social and life is about connection and relationships. It is important that we remind ourselves of this often during our busy lives.
Give your loved ones a squeeze and smile broadly at everyone you meet today – both young and old.
Posted by suzanne on Apr 20, 2013
Individuals want to be active and engaged during the second half of life. We work and we play. Of course, it is important to continue doing meaningful, fulfilling activity. This makes us feel good about ourselves and about life.
Engagement means doing, participating, being involved, contributing, learning and using skills, strengths, gifts and talents. This requires exploring options and possibilities to find the right time and the right fit within in the right place for you.
Staying active helps us to be physically and mentally stimulated. This keeps us healthy and aging positively and provides purpose and meaning in life.
I often hear about this desire to stay active and engaged from the individuals who I work with and interact with. However, there can be too much of a good thing.
During retirement we can get caught up in the ‘busy ethic’ that we have in our society. This leads to too much activity and too many demands. Unfortunately, when we find it hard to slow down, just to take some deep breaths or to take a break, this creates great stress and anxiety.
In my work, I advise individuals to slow down so they can take the time to stop, reflect and contemplate all that is good and wonderful – the blessings, the precious things in life. Contemplation enables your mind the time required to catch up to your body.
Relatedly, balance in roles and activities is important because sometimes we do too much while trying to do it all. We need to make decisions, re-arrange and re-sort our lives; then, take away activities no longer important to us or that just no longer make sense. We have to prioritize and determine what is most important, most meaningful and fulfilling. Sometimes we need to take additional time to see things through to fruition. And sometimes we need to recognize that we are not ‘key actors’; we need to know when we are planting seeds that will later germinate.
We need the reflection time and the balance to see the bigger picture and to be more personally fulfilled so we can achieve what comes next.
Cultivate a balanced, engaged life. Excellent advice at any age.