I have always had a problem with how we arbitrarily place individuals in neat categories for the sake of understanding them. With time stereotypes are developed and when we speak about a certain individual what we remember is the stereotype. I believe in the timeless relevance of people, whatever their age, whatever their background. I am more relevant to others today at age 67 than I was when I was 25 years old, and yet, most people think that I should retire, that I have completed my life cycle. This is a shame. Individuals like me have so much to contribute given their life experience. Although we have made great progress in changing the way others see older adults there is still much to be done. Ageism, a phrase used to denote prejudice against older adults, is alive and well in this country and others. Recent articles present us as selfish and greedy. I take great exception to Joel Kotkin’s article in Newsweek, Are Millennials the Screwed Generation? (July 16, 2012) in which he claims that we have screwed the young generation by taking away jobs by not retiring when we ought to. In my case, the opposite is true.
I am still working and do not plan to retire anytime soon. I created my own company fifteen years ago. The last ten years have been the most productive years of my life. I have been able to better provide for my family, create hundreds of new jobs, change the way we care for low-income seniors in this country and improved the lives of thousands of seniors by providing affordable housing and services to them. I feel more relevant and satisfied than ever before. But make no mistake, I am not exceptional. Thousands of individuals like me are changing the world so that the next generation has it better than us.
In 2006 I was awarded the first Purpose Prize, an award given to those over the age of 60 that have made great contributions to society. Every year since then, awards have been granted to those who have made unique contributions to the welfare of children, young disabled adults, service men returning from wars, reversing climate change, opening the doors to young adults to go to college, among others. It is an impressive group of individuals wishing to leave their mark on this world for the betterment of others. Being among them makes you wonder why we are so vilified and unrecognized. I must conclude that it has to do with the historical phenomena global aging. Never in the history of our world have seniors outnumbered teenagers two to one. Because we have limited resources, this event has pitted young against old.
It is time to set the record straight and the media can do so much. I welcome the New York Times’ recent Boomers website (Booming, Living Through the Middle Ages; http://topics.nytimes.com/top/features/timestopics/series/booming/index.html) where we can begin shattering stereotypes and think of life as having no age but timeless relevance.