By Kathleen D. Tresemer
“I don’t know about you,” I heard recently, “but I will be glad when 2009 comes to an end.”
Well, I kinda thought 2009 was pretty good—my career really took off and I made some new friends. But, I admit, 2009 did have some crummy aspects—this year I gained more than 10 pounds and had to give up eating carbs. Oh, and I learned pretty much everything but air has carbs in it…ARGH!
On the positive side, our not-so-new substitute governor, Pat Quinn (D), signed a proclamation that impacts every Illinois citizen in our Second Half of life: he proclaimed 2010 is the Year of the Engaged Older Adult in Illinois. Quinn’s proclamation is to “encourage all citizens to recognize the constructive impact of civic engagement of older Illinoisans and to promote these vital activities in their personal and professional lives.”
At first glance, I was all excited, “Hey, someone thinks we have value! They like us! They really, really like us!”
Then, it dawned on me…“Doesn’t this just mean they want us to do more than we do already?”
“Well, that’s no honor,” a friend muttered. “That’s just pawning off more work on us, right?”
I was still confused, so I went to Bing and started checking it out. This came from a recent press release out of the governor’s office:
CHICAGO—Dec. 10, 2009. Gov. Pat Quinn today detailed plans for a year-long campaign that will encourage older adults to engage in community activities. “2010: The Year of the Engaged Older Adult” is a call to action for individuals, families and communities to boost learning, strengthen the workforce, and enrich community life by encouraging older adults, ages 50 and older, to lend their expertise to these areas.
The announcement was made during the opening session of the annual Governor’s Conference on Aging.
“This program will expand our efforts to strengthen communities across Illinois,” said Quinn. “The initiative will help increase the number of seniors who participate in volunteer activities in Illinois, allowing them to contribute their talents and expertise to benefit their communities.”
Illinois Department on Aging Director Charles D. Johnson is leading the statewide initiative with the support of an advisory team. The team is working to plan activities in each of Illinois’ 102 counties starting in January 2010.
“Our goal is to work with individuals, organizations and networks to promote civic engagement,” said Johnson. “We appreciate Governor Quinn’s challenge to our citizens ages 50 years and older to engage in activities that boost education, strengthen the workforce and enrich community life.”
Quinn is challenging each citizen to support the initiative by joining activities and events that will be held across the state.
“He says this proclamation is … ‘allowing us to contribute’?” I groused, “We are already contributing more than any other age group!” I point to CLR, RSVP and Lifescape—three great organizations that utilize an enormous amount of Second Half energy and talent.
OK, that one part sounds a little better, the part about “lending our expertise.” That almost sounds like they want to recognize our wisdom. I stumbled upon a Canadian statistical Web site, “A Portrait of Seniors in Canada,” which discussed the role of seniors or elders in their native cultures:
The ancient wisdom, the traditions, rituals, languages and cultural values were passed on and carried forward. In this process, a primary role was played by the Elders, the Old Ones, the Grandmothers and Grandfathers. As individuals especially knowledgeable and experienced in the culture, they were seen as those most closely in touch with the philosophical teachings of life lived in harmony with the Creator and creation. (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples 1996b) (Find this information at http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-519-x/2006001/4122091-eng.htm)
I found something called the “Over 50 Web site: Don’t Let Us Get Sick. Don’t Let Us Get Old. Don’t Let Us Get Stupid.” (http://www.over50web.net/) This site is for/about/written by folks in their Second Half. The site is free, but isn’t necessarily celebrating us—more like an informative support group or, in the lingo of youth, “a senior chat room.”
“The last thing I need is a senior chat room,” my 60-something pal laughed. “I’ll have some great idea, but by the time I find a few minutes to log on and share it, I’ll forget why I went there in the first place! I need real people in real life, to support me and help keep me on task.”
Speaking of support, the best place to feel celebrated for living in the Second Half of life is at AARP. Go to their Web site at www.aarp.org and find their Mission: “to enhance the quality of life for all as we age, leading positive social change and delivering value to members through information, advocacy and service.”
I recall my teen years (vaguely) when I would read Modern Maturity Magazine—now called AARP—The Magazine—and enjoying the upbeat, positive approach. It hasn’t changed, and I still refer to them for all serious information about aging such as insurance, medical research, financial planning and travel. Still, this organization is not about young people celebrating old people—it is about old people celebrating old people: “It is our best defense against the youth of our country!” one of my favorite seniors exclaimed.
Still sounding like “Us Against Them,” right? Well, I gave it some thought. If they think enough of my ideas to want me to get involved, I guess that would be the beginning of valuing me. And since I am never one to be left behind, I’m starting out the year exclaiming, “2010—Mature and Marvelous!”
For more about the 2010 initiative, check out The Intergenerational Initiative Web site at http://www.iii.siuc.edu/index.html.
In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Jan. 6-12, 2010 issue