This statistic came across my Twitter feed again today, “by 2035, older adults will outnumber children under the age of 18 across the country.” When an older adult is generally considered to be anyone over the age of 65, we have a lot of work to do to better our society and our world. This asks us to deeply consider if we have the responsibility to support each other as we enter into becoming care partners for loved ones, and transition into retirement. It requires us to think long and hard about ageism and how our communities are built and function.
Do we have a responsibility to help our employees and fellow neighbors age? Do we have a responsibility to support those looking to enter into an aging and dementia profession? To support those already working? I think so, though the answer is as layered and complex as the question.
We live in a society where we are defined first by our profession and second by our hobbies, family life, and interests. This obstacle is only growing and gaining intensity in many circles. While our careers and the professional titles we hold are important to us, they are not the sum of who we are, our worth. There comes a point when for, whatever reason, we need to leave our jobs, retirement, family obligations, our health. What do we do next? Some feel shame, lost, or guilty, while others rejoice, feel great freedom, or maybe feel neutral about the whole thing. So, what can our places of employment and our society do to improve how we age and transition from active professionals into continuing one’s vocation outside the traditional form of employment? In addition to saving money and taking care of one’s health, we all must also look at our personal lives and know what brings us joy, our priorities, what sustains us emotionally, socially, spiritually, and intellectually.
When looking at agism we need to understand not only what it is, but also its many forms. We see and talk about the discrimination that happens along the spectrum, from those that are “too young” to those that are “old,” but do we ever consider the age-related discrimination that happens when someone wants to work with older adults, but is not admitted into the school because it is not one of the “it” populations for that program. Do we talk about the age-related discrimination that occurs when we separate the population into “abled-bodied” and those with “mental or physical limitations?” These points need to make it into our conversations.
Do the staff members within our care communities and in-home care organizations have a responsibility to help individuals who have recently retired or are transitioning into needing the next level of care? Making sure they are supported in the fullness of life? Do they have the responsibility of understanding and helping maintain the life each individual has created for themselves beyond their professional life? I think, yet again, yes.
We are holding on for dear life to the value of our professional selves, and it is not serving us well. How do we let go? How do we allow ourselves to be the sum of our professional and personal selves at every age?
This is not meant to hold the answers, in fact it may raise more questions, but we must talk about this and find ways to take action. Comment below what you think. I want to hear from you.