Aging in our western society is generally not looked at in a positive light. Our culture tends to view youth as the ideal and aging as a problem. If you disagree with me, just turn on the TV or open a magazine and tell me what you see. Thankfully social work professionals are starting a paradigm shift in the way our culture views aging. I had the pleasure of listening to national and state leaders on the topic of aging at The University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work for their sixth Social Work Grand Challenges event: Advance Long and Productive Lives.
The event was kicked off with the Keynote Address by an international leader in gerontology, Professor Nancy Morrow-Howell, Ph.D. She helped me gain awareness of how our culture views older adults as a problem when she started listing off words that are associated with old age like dementia, death, disease, decay, dependent, disability, drain, and deficit. The population seems fearful that there are going to be more people over the age of 60 than under 15 as seen by the metaphor the general public is using to describe the aging population: The Silver Tsunami. The problem with this fear and over generalization of the aging population is that it is not the reality. People over 60 years of age have better health and higher levels of education than in the past; therefore have their later years to make positive contributions to our society. With these later years Dr. Morrow-Howell is advocating for productive aging defined as “any activity by an older adult individual that contributes to production of goods or services whether paid or not.” Older adults should have the choice for productive roles in employment, caregiving and/or formal volunteering, instead of feeling society’s pressure to retire and spend later years in leisure. If you would like to learn more about productive aging check our Dr. Morrow-Howell’s publications.
So how can our society support older adults’ choice to have productive engagement in later life?
1.) Our workplaces need to change. We need to strive to have more age-friendly workspaces due to the financial need and desire for social contact and purpose of older adults. If you would like to learn ways to make your workplace more age friendly check out the resource, The Center on Aging & Work.
2.) We need to fight against ageism, prejudice towards older persons. Ernest Gonzales, Assistant Professor of Social Work, NYU Silver School of Social Work stated that ageism is estimated to cost $63 billion annually. A simple way to start fighting ageism is to use the term, older adult, to describe the aging population instead of elderly. If you want to do more join the local campaign, Changing the Narrative, to change the way people think about aging.
3.) Percy Devine III, Regional Administrator, Administration on Aging, Department of Health and Human Services, encouraged us to contact our members of Congress about the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA). The OAA was passed in 1965 due to the need for community social services for older adults. One main way this act delivers on its mission is through creating state units called Agencies on Aging like DRCOG for the Denver region. The last reauthorization occurred in 2016 and the next reauthorization will take place during the 2019 legislative session.
4.) Show your support for paid family leave programs in your state. In Colorado the Senate Finance Committee will be voting on the Senate Bill 19-188, FAMLI Family Medical Leave Insurance Program, on Tuesday at 2pm. We need to give greater recognition and support of older adults who have caregiving and grandparenting roles.
5.) Get involved in your state’s Senior Lobby to have a voice in issues that affect older adults. Participate in Senior Day at The Capital on Thursday April the 12th at First Baptist Church – Fellowship Hall 1373 Grant Street , Denver, CO 80203. To buy a ticket click here.
6.) Attend a Strategic Action Planning Group on Aging meeting at DRCOG location, 1001 17th Street Denver, Colorado from noon – 3pm: April 8, May 13, June 10, July 8, August 12, September 9, October 7, November 4, and December 9. This committee was created to help the state prepare for a significant demographic shift where nearly one out of every five Coloradans will be 65 years or older by 2030. To view their 2018 Strategic Action Plan on Aging click here.
Denver Senior Care consultants are taking on the challenge of changing the way our society thinks of aging. Our mission highlights our desire for older adults to have long and productive lives. Denver Senior Care develops creative care solutions for changes that occur as one ages. Senior energy in the community enhances life for all of us. Denver Senior Care consultants can assist you in continuing to be productive in society as you age. Call us at (303) 345-3533 to see if our Denver Senior Care services are right for you.