Once Again a Senior, and Now What Are We Looking Forward To?
Resource type: News
Terry Kaelber, Community Experience Partnership |
By Terry Kaelber
Wednesday, August 21, is National Senior Citizens Day.
Remember being a senior in high school or college? Figuring out what to do with our lives – identifying what was next – wasn’t easy. But there were resources available to help us understand and explore the opportunities, roles and responsibilities ahead. There were goals to work toward, milestones to anticipate. While the path wasn’t always clear, there was structure and a system of beliefs that grounded us in the journey.
In our early 60s, we again find ourselves “becoming a senior.” This is way different. This part of life is not structured to help us feel there is something purposeful to look forward to, something yet to attain. Some of us are wondering how we will make meaning out of leisure. Others have more basic concerns, seeking jobs and needed income for the decades to come. All of us are living with the social perception that an aging population is an economic weight that other generations must bear.
This is an existential dilemma of aging today – we are living in a society that hasn’t figured out what to do with those of us benefiting from the “longevity revolution” and living into our 80s or 90s. But before we know it, 78 million people – one third of the U.S. adult population – will be over age 60.
A growing network of funders and nonprofits is bringing forward a healthy new vision of aging in America. They view older adults as a vast, largely untapped resource that can be vital to community improvement. For example, here in New York, more than 270 seniors have grown or brought 125 tons of fresh produce into neighborhoods classified as food deserts. In northwest Minnesota, 1,800 older adults are partnering with youth to lead local projects in ten rural communities, including three Native American reservations. The examples go on in locales from Los Angeles to Maine.
As we reflect on “senior hood” today, we have the opportunity to choose, and fulfill, our vision for what aging will mean to America.
Terry Kaelber is Director of Healthy Communities Through Healthy Food, the New York City project of the national Community Experience Partnership. At the Council on Foundation’s 2013 Fall Conference for Community Foundations from September 23 – 25, 2013 in San Diego, Terry and colleagues from across the country will be discussing strategies and lessons learned through a six-year initiative focused on engaging older adults to lead community change.
Community Experience Partnership is an Atlantic grantee via Community Initiatives.