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 Mar 21, 2014
This week, I was invited to Peterborough by Hatch to speak to older adults in the community about later life empowerment through self renewal, challenging roles and community innovation during the New Retirement. My presentation was sponsored by CARP. This is some coverage in the local media about my presentation.
It was a fabulous evening: we had a great turnout and people stayed after my presentation for an hour-long Q & A session. We discussed ‘retirement’, volunteering and social enterprise. Hearing members of the audience’s views on this topic was interesting. Not all older adults want to volunteer; some want to do more. Moreover, some want to earn money for their extensive knowledge, skill and expertise. This indicates to me that there is a shift occurring within attitudes and expectations for ‘retirement’.
I engage groups and help them see opportunities – the opportunities of later life. In partnership with Hatch and Peterborough Economic Development Business Advisory Board, I am offering a workshop series for adults who are in the Third Age and are interested in starting a new enterprise – something that generates revenue and gives back to the community. Please contact me (on my contact page) or visit Hatch for further information.
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 22, 2013
In honour of National Volunteer Week (NVW) it is a good time to blog about volunteering, community service and charitable work.
Many people want to give back to the community for what they themselves have received. This is meaningful work that makes a difference in the lives of others. Many boomers, seniors and elders who I talk to describe the satisfaction they receive from their volunteer work. This work is important and they find it fulfilling. By helping others, not only do they find their work fulfilling; it better connects them to community and adds to their quality of life.
The report I co-authored with Paula Speevak-Sladowski entitled Volunteering and Older Adults has recently been released. This report is important to share with organizations and communities that want to better engage older adults in volunteer work and community service. This report can help to inform programs, services and policy as we give greater attention to our aging population and create age friendly communities in Ontario and in the rest of Canada. Not only is volunteering an activity that helps individuals remain engaged in the community; research also indicates that it contributes to better health.
Meaningful and fulfilling roles and activities help us all ‘age well’.
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.
Posted by suzanne on Mar 30, 2013
In 2011, the proportion of seniors in Canada grew to 14.4% and the median age rose to 39.9 years. As Canadian society ages, there is great interest and attention given to aging across various fields and disciplines: health care services, caregiving, housing and aging in place, career and occupation, lifelong learning and education, leisure and recreation, and well-being and healthy living, including lifestyle, diet and exercise. Services, products, supports and technological aids for seniors and aging are being developed, provided and offered.
The field of aging is ever dynamic. There is a lot happening. All of this impacts our attitudes and perspectives and how we view aging. We are reshaping aging on so many fronts. The field is evolving and is entering a new stage as we embrace the New Vision of Aging.
I view the second half of life as a time of growth, enlightenment and transformation. As an educator with a passion for sharing information and knowledge, I am particularly interested in lifelong learning and its influence on healthy aging. Learning is lifelong. Learning is social. Engagement in learning can herald deep personal growth and development during the second half of life. It is rewarding and a great privilege to work with so many individuals who are in this vital stage of life.
Be part of the New Vision of Aging. It is an exciting time to be in the field.
Posted by suzanne on Mar 18, 2013
As a gerontologist entrepreneur and educator, I regularly get asked to speak to community groups and nonprofit organizations. In my work providing education and awareness about the second half of life and presenting on my research, I meet interesting people in the community and have fascinating discussions with them.
I recently spoke to a Rotary Club in Southern Ontario where we talked about the second half of life and retirement. I asked those in the audience to tell me about their vision for retirement.
As I have often noticed when this topic comes up, a majority of individuals in the audience described an engaged and active retirement. Most envisioned a retirement of ‘doing’ – being mentally, physically and socially active.
This is one picture that a man in the audience drew, showing himself as active and engaged. The specific activities and pursuits are not the focus here, but the ‘doing’ and ‘being’ are critical to this individual, and this is an important message. This is but one image of retirement; however, I really like how this individual portrayed being active in this drawing.
What are your thoughts? Over the next months, I will share more drawings and mappings of the ‘new retirement’.
Posted by suzanne on Feb 21, 2013
Retirement has changed.
While images of the ‘ideal’ retirement abound that are vivid and compelling, in reality, we each have our own idea of retirement. More often, we are rejecting the old images. Clearly, things have changed. Now we have the ‘new retirement’.
Wherever I go, people are talking about retirement and the second half of life; however, there is little opportunity to facilitate, cultivate and design the new retirement. I hope to change this.
In my work with Generation X, Baby Boomers and seniors, individuals are sharing their image of retirement with me. Through what I am calling the New Retirement Project, I will be sharing some images of the new retirement that people have drawn or mapped out as they consider and contemplate their retirement. I will be sharing these images through social media.
Stay tuned, dear Readers!
Posted by suzanne on Feb 14, 2013
Clearly, later life careers and career options require change. Longevity, greater health and education and financial realities have all contributed to this social imperative to revisit later life career and career planning.
Individuals are working longer. They are embracing productive and engaging roles that they find stimulating and meaningful.
Despite this, career and career development during later life are not often discussed. Seasoned workers, with the skills and talent they bring to the workplace, continue to have much to offer – even as they approach the traditional age for retirement.
More individuals are looking for new career options for the second half of life. They aren’t ready to be tapped on the shoulder and told it is time to go. Older workers who remain with their employers are often dismissed and neglected when it comes to career development, talent management and training and development. What we should be seeing instead is more attention to these issues.
In addition, there is much more opportunity for innovative talent management programs for older workers, such as transition and knowledge transfer strategies and succession planning – all of which support employer and employee interests. This is good for a healthy economy, a productive workforce and a stronger Canada.
My work addresses the career development of older workers and demonstrates why this is important for healthy aging. I believe that individuals will continue to be connected to the workforce in various ways; thus, we need to rethink organizational processes and procedures that slowly move older workers aside. We need to be more innovative with regard to the ways individuals can contribute and be productive.
I notice a growing interest in baby boomers and career. It is always refreshing to discuss issues with others who share a similar perspective. Dear readers – I would enjoy hearing about the issues you see in society and in the workplace. Please share any good examples of best practices that stand out for you.