Here’s the presentation I made at the Michigan Association of Senior Centers conference in Mt. Pleasant on November 6, 2015. The presentation discusses social, political, and economic trends and how they represent opportunities for senior centers to reinvent themselves by responding to these trends and offering relevant programming to address them.
Below is the link to an expanded version of the PowerPoint presentation I used in an interactive discussion with a church group about spiritual growth in older age. It seems to me that there are certain inevitabilities about aging that transcend societies and cultures: a shortening of time perspective, the accumulated lifetime experience, and eventual physical decline . How we respond to these inevitabilities will be affected by our world view. In our culture another inevitability makes the experience of aging more harrowing, and that is pervasive and unconscious ageism.
These inevitabilities invite us to undertake a number of developmental tasks to respond and adapt. The tasks include self-esteem regulation, managing our foreshortened time span, coming to terms with decline, dealing with dependence, facing death, relating to unfinished business, and leaving a legacy. Inherent in these challenges are opportunities for spiritual growth, which our limited time perspective calls for us to use. We can learn to be more patient, to be less petty, to let go of old hurts and resentments, to fully appreciate the present moment, to take on social roles that befit us as elders with a lifetime of experience, to view ourselves as a part of a whole, and much more. Our need for spiritual stamina increases as we age, as does our ability to share our hard-won spiritual achievements with others.
For each task, I have suggested some opportunities, some tools for exploring them, and ideas for sharing each person’s journey with others. Finally, several resources are listed that can assist with a number of these challenges.
Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University
This past July, Lansing Community College economics professor Jim Luke gave a presentation sponsored by the Michigan Intergenerational Network on our Country’s intergenerational transfer programs: Social Security and Medicare. You can view his PowerPoint slides and read his blog post on the topic at www.econproph.com. The point that impacted me the most is the fact that intergenerational transfer programs are inevitable, because the very young and the very old cannot possibly generate the resources necessary to support their well being. When societies lack formal intergenerational transfer programs, the task of supporting the two ends of the lifespan usually falls to the family. However, that arrangement allows many children and old people to lack support because of death, social changes, economic instability, acrimony within families, mental illness, war or other hazards.
A form of social insurance is more reliable and benefits the society as a whole, due to the economic stability provided by predictable income, and therefore predictable cash infusion into the economy. In other words, our intergenerational transfer programs are not perks that old people receive to the detriment of the young. They’re an organized way of addressing a universal social problem, and the current solution provides additional advantage to everyone in the society. Indeed, we need to preserve them so that the economically productive group that is contributing now to Social Security and Medicare will ultimately receive the same benefit that they are providing to their elders. Breaking the intergenerational compact, that would be an injustice to the young! Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University
With the present recession, many older workers have chosen to delay retirement in order to recover retirement savings lost in the downturn or cover out of pocket medical costs. A current meme suggests that older employees are displacing younger ones or are depriving younger prospective workers of jobs. A recent Issue Brief of the Pew Charitable Trust, entitled “When Baby Boomers Delay Retirement, Do Younger Workers Suffer?“, refutes that notion. The document reports on the analysis of Current Population Survey data from 1977 to 2011, and states in the Conclusion, “the evidence suggests that greater employment of older persons leads to better outcomes for the young—reduced unemployment, increased employment, and a higher wage. The patterns are consistent for both men and women and for groups with different levels of education. And perhaps most notably, the effects of Boomer employment on other segments of the labor market during the Great Recession do not differ from those during typical business cycles.”
We need to carefully examine assertions that contribute to competition and divisiveness among the generations. Buying into ideas that pit one end of the lifespan against another ignores our interdependence, and could end up depriving the young of the support and experience of our elders, and the old of the joy of contributing to the prosperity of the young. Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University