Sunday, April 29, 2012

Four movements to watch

RosalynnCarterAttending the Aging in America conference every year is my way of sharpening the saw. This was my fifth year attending this event, and I am amazed at how I always learn something new.

My role as president of Senior Concerns is taking me into new arenas—adult day programs for those with dementia, Meals on Wheels to combat food insecurity and caregiver support services for stressed caregivers.

I attended this year’s conference with a fresh eye and came away with information on four movements that seem to be hot topics in the world of seniors.

Pioneering a New Purpose for Maturity: According to gerontologist Ken Dychtwald, the baby boomer generation was the first to think work should be fun, that it should be a place where you grow, learn and feel good.

So when it comes to paid or unpaid work, boomers will look for these same attributes. Whether starting a new business, going into the nonprofit world or volunteering, boomers are set to reinvent roles that allow them to achieve personal development and enjoyment in the second half of their lives.

Female Power and Influence: “My mother was born before women could vote,” said Hillary Clinton in 2008. “But in this election my daughter got to vote for her mother for president.”

Look how far we’ve come!

Boomer women have tremendous influence up and down generational lines. They are reinventing how they care for their aging parents and are modeling the behavior they expect of their children.

Boomer women have rewritten the relationship between mother and child to one more closely based on friendship and mutual interests, influencing the way their children think, shop and work.

Bless Rosalynn Carter: Here’s a visionary who 25 years ago had the foresight to bring resources to the challenges facing boomers as caregivers today.

The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving has succeeded in testing support for caregivers and quickly putting good programs into wide-spread practice, as well as fighting for financial support for family caregivers.

It’s only today, 25 years later, that a large percentage of the population is beginning to see that her organization’s efforts—to build long-term services for aging seniors in their homes and to reduce the astronomical financial, physical and emotional cost of care for family caregivers—are at the forefront of boomers’ needs.

A Key to Successful Aging— Vital Involvement: The oldest old are the fastest growing age group in America today. Seniors are living longer because chronic conditions won’t kill them; medical science is seeing to that.

So what happens when we boomers become the oldest old, our bodies aren’t what they used to be and we need help to bathe, prepare meals and get around town? How will we stay actively engaged in the world and feel a sense of meaning and purpose?

The Vital Involvement movement is a method to help older adults remain involved in the present.

What makes a good day for you? What are the things you do each day that you really want to continue? What are you good at? What kinds of help or assistance do you give to others?

By getting answers to these questions, those involved in our care can help ensure that our strengths and aspirations are nurtured, even if our bodies are failing.

Combining insights from these and other movements, the last day of the conference focused on how boomers will transform aging, with a panel presentation by some experts in the field.

The presentation was recorded, to be viewed by students and professionals in colleges, universities and institutions around the county.

The goal of these screenings is to develop awareness for the emerging needs and challenges facing our society as the boomer generation ages. The future is both exciting and alarming.

For highlights of the session, visit www.huffingtonpost.com/ 2012/ 04/ 02/ aging- inamerica-baby-boomers- arianna-huffington_ n_ 1397686. html?view=screen.


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Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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