Archive for the ‘News and Research’ Category

  • $160 Billion: The “Contributions” Of Older Adults

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    Today’s seniors annually contribute approximately $160 billion to the US economy in paid work and countless other unpaid activities.

    This nugget was uncovered in a recent article from The Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College. This month the Center has published two articles of great import regarding both the contributions of the older workers and how to keep them engaged.

    The first is a note from Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, Director of the Center, who on March 31st , attended the White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility convened by President Obama and the First Lady. The focus of this convening was to address how: “The aging of the workforce urges us to create work environments that support the productivity and engagement of workers of all ages and across all career stages.”

    The second article is a fascinating “conversation” with the Sloan Center’s Director of Research, Jacquelyn B. James, PhD. about The “Contributions” of Older Adults. Just one of the topics included is her eye-opening take on the current buzz regarding reverse-generativity.

    And her answer to the question, “In general, do people believe that older adults are still developing and productive later in life?” is a refreshingly honest shot across the bow: “No, not by a long shot!”

    Many interesting insights here, as well as in James’ recent book, The Crown of Life: Dynamics of the Early Postretirement Period.

  • Singing: The Poetry of Speech

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    That music in itself, whose sounds are song,
    The poetry of speech.
    ~Lord Byron

    The National Center for Creative Aging pointed me to a fascinating article about “Singing Seniors Finding Their Voices,” by Carolyn Y. Johnson for the Boston Globe.

    In normal aging our voices can change. Joseph Stemple, professor of communication sciences and disorders at the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences, said, “aging muscles weaken and vocal cords no longer close completely – creating an airiness or breathiness in speech. Each syllable takes a greater portion of breath.”

    Ironically, the pops and squeaks and lack of control seem to mirror the opposite end of life when a boy’s voice changes as he enters manhood. The results can be excruciatingly embarrassing. This is not a great problem when seniors are with family and friends but can be a daunting one when interviewing for the job of your dreams. The unpredictability can make a serious dent in your confidence.

    The good news is that,  just as you can build up your biceps, you can strengthen your vocal chords. Elizabeth Anker teaches singing to seniors in a class in Boston. The program is a collaboration between Longy School of Music and the United South End Settlements.  Anker’s class focuses on ensemble singing and harmony, but also on techniques that can strengthen voices that are naturally changing with age. The class is free, supported by a grant from the MetLife Foundation Creative Aging Program.

    Read the article, watch the embedded video of the “Singing Seniors,” and listen as 63 year-old student, Dory Tobias, describes how “It lightens your soul!”

    The poetry of speech…

  • “It Never Occurred To Me Not To Work!”

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    Enid Nemy published a grand obituary about Liz Carpenter, a remarkable – some would say fierce – octogenarian reporter and feminist, in yesterday’s NY Times.

    Liz Carpenter, who spent much of her life working the corridors of power in Washington as a newspaper reporter, an aide to Lyndon B. Johnson when he was vice president and press secretary to Lady Bird Johnson during her years in the White House, died on Saturday in Austin, Tex. She was 89.

    She was in the motorcade in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

    She wrote the brief speech Mr. Johnson delivered at the foot of Air Force One when he returned to Washington as the 36th president. (“This is a sad time for all people,” he said, adding, “I ask for your help — and God’s.”)

    For the next five years, she served as the First Lady’s press secretary.

    Widely known for her caustic and sometimes bawdy wit, Ms. Carpenter was irreverent about herself and her access to power during the Johnson years in Washington. She was also one of the few White House staff members who had no qualms about giving as good as she got, no matter the source.  “Why don’t you use your head?” Mr. Johnson once bellowed at her.

    She bellowed back: “I’m too busy trying to use yours!””

    “It never occurred to me not to work,” Ms. Carpenter said in a 1987 interview, shortly after she had undergone a mastectomy, adding, “I had a restless spirit that kept drawing me to new adventures.” She never hesitated, she said, “to charge hell with a bucket of water.”

    Read the full obituary. It’s a feisty tribute to Liz Carpenter, a life and a spirit to be remembered!

  • Marc Freedman and the “Generativity Revolution”

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    Ahhh, Marc Freedman (Founder and CEO of Civic Ventures and Encore.org) takes on David Brook’s NY Times, op-ed piece, The Geezer Crusade, which we posted on February 2nd. His response (albeit too gentle) appeared in yesterday’s Huffington Post.

    You may recall Brooks rather biased calls for a “generativity revolution” to reverse public policies that he says rob the young to serve the old and take from them funding, freedom and opportunity.

    “It now seems clear that the only way the U.S. is going to avoid an economic crisis is if the oldsters take it upon themselves to arise and force change,” Brooks writes.

    Freedman says, “We agree, except to say that the real generativity revolution is well underway. And with the help of smart new policies, this movement of forward-looking baby boomers might actually succeed…. After decades of decline, the average retirement age has been increasing steadily, with more adults 55 and older staying in the labor force. And its increasingly clear that these older workers aren’t competing with younger people; they are meeting demands for talent that will only grow as the economy recovers.”

    Neither addresses the FACT that two wars – Iraq and Afghanistan – are draining the economy at warp speed. It’s not the seniors who continue to work, holding down important, value added jobs, nor senior programs such as Social Security to which those same working seniors have contributed for their entire working lives!

  • Entrepreneurial Boomers

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    The Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College is doing some innovative projects – research, workshops and publications – on older workers.

    This month it published Fact Sheet #26 which provides a fascinating snapshot of entrepreneurship and the older worker.

    It cited, for example, a 2009 analysis of data from the Kauffman Foundation on Entrepreneurship in which individuals aged 55-64 “experienced the largest increase in entrepreneurial activity from 2007-2008 (0.31% to 0.36%), making it the age group with the highest entrepreneurial activity rate.”

    And for those of you who might be thinking that the current economic environment, layoffs and the dismal lack of job opportunites forced this entrepreneurial activity, another 2009 survey from the Kauffman Foundation, generated these results: “80.3% of respondents stated that inability to find traditional employment was not at all a factor in starting their own businesses. Only 4.5% said this was an important factor.”

    We’d love to hear some of your entrepreneurial thoughts – a new business, a new way of doing business, entrepreneurial ideas for your interview with the company where you’d like to work???

  • The Geezers’ Crusade

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    Don’t miss this highly provocative essay by New York Times op-ed columnist, David Brooks. But beware being lulled into thinking, “he gets it!” Just as you begin to think this is a marvelous tribute to our intellectual and leadership prowess, he knocks the pins out from under us.

    But again… do not despair. Keep reading until you reach the “readers comments,” They – for the most part – are a brilliant antidote, guaranteed to restore your faith in the power of reasonable people.

    And, for those of you not familiar with David Brooks, I admire his writing, his thoughts and especially his ability to provoke. Isn’t this what good journalism should be, as opposed to simple regurgitation of news or even worse manipulative spin?

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