Over the last year, I have been thinking about the aging population in Weld County. Through conversations with the community and agencies who are serving the aging population I have had the following thoughts about how we, as a community and Foundation can better serve this increased population. I too, have now reached the age where I’ll sometimes admit to being a senior citizen – depending on the size of the discount.
- Some months ago, I was talking with Greeley community icon, retired banker, and philanthropist Norm Dean. In our conversation, he said, “You know, there’s only one thing I’m not afraid of anymore.” Taking the bait, I asked, “What’s that?” He replied with a wry smile and a chuckle, “Dying young.” You have to appreciate good humor, especially when it comes from such a deep well of wisdom. Without really coming out and saying it, he also pointed out a hidden message and the underlying truth: the only escape hatch from the aging process is not a particularly desirable alternative.
- Did you see the LA Times article, published in the Greeley Tribune, a few months ago that cited a study explaining pessimism about getting older increasing the likelihood of developing dementia? It was significant: “…study participants who had positive beliefs about aging were 44 percent less likely to develop dementia over the next four years than were their counterparts with negative beliefs.” If there was ever a better case for having a positive outlook on life . . . !
- A small task force has been formed of representatives from Weld County’s Area Agency on Aging, local nonprofit funders and service providers to the aging population. Among the issues being discussed is the growth in the next decade, where the senior citizen demographic is predicted to be among the largest population increase. With so few services and resources already in existence that serve the current needs of the aging and elderly, there is concern for how the growth of this population will impact the demand for even greater service delivery. Already behind, it’s a serious consideration.
- A few of us from the task force had the privilege of attending a seminar of groups from around the state of Colorado. The desire is to change the narrative about ageism, that it is not what the stereotypes lead us to believe. Seniors have much to offer: experience, humor, art, sound advice, philanthropy, and the list goes on. Why do we so often ignore such vast resources right at our fingertips?
All this considered, what are we going to do about this increasing demographic? What can we do? Especially when it’s our turn to get there? Let’s approach it with resolve – and a good attitude. None of us can come back after the fact to resolve these issues. We don’t generally think about our children and grandchildren becoming the “elderly and aged,” but we can prepare for elderly generations to come. Let’s make sure the resources are in place to help take care of our growing aging population.
Is there a place in your charitable giving for making sure our loved ones – coming behind us – are well cared for when they get to that stage of life? It’s an intriguing charitable niche that’s often overlooked. If you have an interest, I would enjoy visiting about how you can make a difference.