Posts Tagged ‘seniors’

  • Take Back the Glory of “Senior”

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    Every time I use the word “senior” to describe our generation, people flinch or cringe. “How did this happen?” I asked a colleague last week.  When we were seniors in high school we felt like kings and queens of the mountain. A senior in college was even better. We were the class imbued with all the wisdom those hallowed halls could offer before stepping into the “real aka business world.” Once installed in the business world, we could not wait to achieve senior status: be it Senior Editor, Senior Manager, Senior Partner – Senior whatever. Senior was the epitome of excellence and achievement. Then, when we hit age 50, to be called a senior was a kiss of death. You were now over-the-hill, redundant or worst of all invisible.

    Seniors tried to counter the negative stereotype with adjectives such as “Older Adult.” Talk about redundant; it’s like saying a child is a little toddler. Then, people seized on the word Boomer as a less vapid alternative to Older Adult. Talk about pathetic. Boomer sounds more like a slightly deranged character in the 1994 American epic movie, Forrest Gump, than a revered and respected senior citizen.

    I remember being struck by a comment the late Betty Freidan made to an audience of hundreds at an NBA (National Booksellers Association) meeting. She said, “All of the prejudice I have encountered in Feminism pales – absolutely pales – in comparison to what I have experienced in Ageism.” That was back in the early 1990’s, and we certainly have not made much progress in the ensuing 20+ years.

    Let’s look at a little aging reality here. Superman’s first appearance was in Action Comics #1, in 1938. Wonder Woman was introduced  in All Star Comics #8 in 1941.  No spring chickens, these two are still super acting 74 and 71 respective years later.

    I know these riveting details, because I read the recent Wall Street Journal article,  A Haven for Aged Super Heroes. The article was about Metropolis Collectibles Inc., a firm in New York City, which buys and sells vintage comics. Especially noteworthy, is the fact that Metropolis recently sold the aforementioned 1938 Action Comics #1, which debuted Superman, for $2.2 million. Talk about the value of an “Aging Superhero!”

    A month after reading the “Aging Super Heroes” WSJ piece, the New York Times published History Hits the Campaign Trail. Their article describes how, in this miasma (my word) of political campaigning, Obama and Romney continue to “invoke the opinions of long-dead white males in powdered wigs.” The article notes, “While it’s been a long time since any of the founding fathers made a personal appearance on the campaign trail, they continue speaking from beyond the grave through the mouths of present-day candidates, weighing in on matters as disparate — and perhaps unimaginable to them in life — as health care reform, gay marriage and abortion rights.” It seems highly ironic in these times of rampant ageism, that politicians fighting for their political lives need the wisdom of these aged statesmen to validate their positions.

    Last but far from least on the ludicrousness of ageism, I call your attention to a dazzling matter of “Advanced (as in age) Style.” We highlighted this book a few weeks ago, but I’ve just learned of a video – in which you can hear each of these fabulous fashionistas, Grande Dames [in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 100’s] describe how they feel the secret of life has nothing to do with age. It is, rather, all about the art of being oneself forever!

    I’m off to buy a new hat…

  • $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.

  • Take Back the Name: Stop Negative “Senior” Stereotyping!

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    Remember when we were in high school and achieving “Senior” status was the Holy Grail. It was the same in college. The senior class was highly revered; it was the font of wisdom and experience for the undergrads. No one was more “with it” than a senior. It was a powerful position oft lauded with reckless abandon – in fact, if memory serves, the more reckless abandon the more the senior was lauded.

    It wasn’t until we joined the work force that “Senior” became a pejorative epithet. Not an instant metamorphous, it accrued bit by bit as our seniors’ workplace tenure increased. Each year, each crop of new corporate mogul wannabes, ambitious, cutting-edge entrepreneurs and innovators slowly but surely pushed older employees into the “establishment.”  This was not a good establishment but, rather, one that connoted stodgy, unimaginative, over-the-hill and senior (bold is to emphasize the thud). We need to revamp the definition of senior to include such positives as:  dynamic, creative, energetic and treasure trove of experience and wisdom. In other words – very savvy!

    AARP did not help. Their market focus was so successful that 50 became synonymous with retirement. And their image of retirement was a good thing – like a lifetime achievement award. That was their pitch but the folks actually approaching 50 dreaded the AARP member invitation. It arrived in mailboxes like a death knell. We were crossing the Rubicon from living and working to retiring. On the other hand, the young, eager-beaver workers loved this blueprint because they needed room at the top to move up the ladder. You’d think we’d know better today. But AARP is still thriving; it is one of the most profitable nonprofits in the country, if not the world. And negative senior stereotypes remain rampant.

    We also need to stop saying, “sixty is the new fifty, seventy is the new sixty,” etc. That just pushes the problem down the road, and we all know what happened to Sisyphus. Remember that king in ancient Greek Mythology who was cursed to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity…

    It’s time to redefine seniors and retirement through new role models such as Robert Chambers, who at 60+ founded a nonprofit organization, Bonnie CLAC, in rural New Hampshire and, in less than 10 years, was invited to a White House press conference, where President Obama hailed him as one of the nation’s greatest social innovators.

    There are lots more seniors like Robert. It’s time to take back the name!


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