This topic came up in our last AHWGO get together when we learned about ‘Coming of Age‘ that tries to ‘capture the expertise of people 50+.
The new middle age (40 to 68 and beyond), the 50+ generation, the ‘new’ old, the second stage of life – all age-dependent categories that try to address needs, opportunities, challenges for these groups.
Some people in their 70s have powerful leadership roles, some retire at 65 and enjoy their freedom from work and obligations. Some move into senior living residences as soon as they are eligible, at 62, others in their late 70s when they need help. Some raise the children of their children when they are in their 50s, others are older parents and have preteens or younger kids in their 50s. Some can enjoy the fruits of their labor and have a choice to continue working, volunteer, explore their interests, others have to continue working because they need the money. Some are physically fit, others need assistance with daily life.
Every discussion around age encounters the problem that how people live is not as tightly linked to their chronological age as it used to be. This is as big of a shift as the fact that people live longer healthier, are active longer and live longer with illnesses.
How to respond to this medley of needs and life styles before we enter old age?
A different kind of work: Support second career choices and training both for paid work and volunteer work that take give people flexibility and tap into their passions and experience.
Alliances between generations and needs: such as foster grand parent programs, multigenerational housing, learning programs at universities, teaching opportunities, mentor programs for young professionals.
Giving Care from one older person to the other: Healthy elderly are increasingly taken care of elderly, both professionally and as family care givers. They need training and support.
Housing and Services: Offer a variety of integrated housing and service options. Support growing old at home financially and with services.
Connect: Self help networks in communities and neighborhoods.
It is amazing how many great programs and resources already exist that address these needs but there is not enough of them and they are difficult to find unless you are in ‘the know’. Would it help to combine forces to be stronger and more effective? Could there be a one-stop resource that is an information hub for all the possibilities and helps older adults to make the right choice or make them aware of available opportunities. And lastly there has to be more of everything since there will be many more of us, trying to do a good job at aging.