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4 Ways to Embrace Aging Populations And Connect Generations

Welcome

As a certified coach, I am passionate about helping my clients to reach new heights of personal and professional success, as they successfully manage the dynamics of the continual transitions in their lives. Helping Boomers create rich and inspired lifestyle plans for the retirement life they want is one of my greatest joys. My clients call on me to help them discover, design and then direct the changes required to make meaningful change in their lives.

Inkiesta, pronounced “in-key-es-ta” is an Italian word meaning “journey”. 

 

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass… It's about learning how to dance in the rain.”

Vivien Green, Author

 
In 1999, medicine it cost only $70 to build a well in Uganda; yet most families had to travel many miles each day to find safe drinking water.  Ryan Hreljac, a 7-year old boy from Ottawa heard about this and was so moved that he started a campaign at his school and raised $70 to build his first well in Uganda. Seventeen years later, his foundation, Ryan’s Well, has helped build wells and latrines – the most basic needs for good hygiene - for close to a million people. Ryan provides resources and know-how, but more importantly he provides a legacy of self-sufficiency.

His story got me thinking about what legacies are really made of.  The dictionary describes the word legacy as “a law, a gift of property, especially personal property, by will or bequest.” That’s all fine and good, but what if we don’t’ have any money or personal belongings to leave behind? Does this mean we can’t leave a legacy? This definition also suggests that a legacy doesn’t happen until we die. It seems to me that our most important legacy is NOT something we leave behind; but rather it is molded and shaped by the actions we take while we’re here on earth. It’s too late to worry about legacies when we’re on our death bed.

If I was asked, I would define legacy as: “a gift of self or resources, in life and after; given to others through love, compassion and integrity; an inspiration for future generations.” This definition feels more encompassing and complete.

In many ways, we’re hardwired to help each other and legacies are a way of doing just that. Legacies also come in different shapes and sizes.  Some we wish we could forget like the Legacies of Shame - The Holocaust and 9/11. There’s no question those legacies were fuelled by misguided ideologies and while we’d like to wash away the stains they’ve left, they’re too deeply ingrained in our collective psyche. But there are many more great legacies.

  1. There are Legacies of Means - for those who have more money than they can ever spend in a lifetime. Warren Buffet, the multi-billionaire owner of Berkshire Hathaway, recently created a philanthropist club. To join this very exclusive club, you must 1) be a billionaire and 2) you must commit to giving at least 75% of your net worth to your favourite charities. Sara Blakely, the owner of Spanx and Bill Gates of Microsoft are among the club’s 143 members.
  2. There are Lasting Legacies – those that keep on giving, like Terry Fox’s Annual Marathon of Hope, whose foundation has raised over $650M for cancer research so far. Terry far surpassed his dream of raising $1 for each Canadian. There is Andre Agassi’s (former USA tennis player) Preparatory School that gives poor kids in Vegas – a city synonymous with excesses – an opportunity to prepare for and attend post-secondary education.
  3. There are Legacies of Compassion that help the most vulnerable members of society. Mother Theresa says she felt called to work with the “poorest of the poor”. Today, 517 of her missions operate in over 100 countries. It’s not surprising she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Mark and Craig Keilburger, two Canadian kids, started the WE DAY movement to inspire young people around the world to lead global change, right in their own communities. Their annual rally celebrates the accomplishments and fuels the inspiration of those amazing young people.

These are all admiral legacies in their own right and I am the first to applaud the incredibly positive impact these legacies have. But we must not forget the most important Legacies of You and Me; those small everyday expressions of love and acts of compassion that come from teaching our children to be kind; helping a friend who’s going through a rough patch or mentoring youth.

The greatest legacies have less to do with money or Grandma’s antique butter dish, and more to do with the way we treat the people we love, while we’re here. Maya Angelou captured the essence of legacy when she said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The emotional connections we have with each other are the stuff that the best legacies are made of.

Ryan Hreljac is still only 24 years old today. Imagine the legacy he’ll create in his lifetime, and it all started with $70 and a big dream. You can find more information about his charity at www.ryanswell.ca.  The footprint we choose to leave on this planet is ours to decide, but let’s be sure our legacies are not defined by chance or by historians. What will the legacy you are building today say about you tomorrow?
In 1999, pill it cost only $70 to build a well in Uganda; yet most families had to travel many miles each day to find safe drinking water.  Ryan Hreljac, sildenafil a 7-year old boy from Ottawa heard about this and was so moved that he started a campaign at his school and raised $70 to build his first well in Uganda. Seventeen years later, story his foundation, Ryan’s Well, has helped build wells and latrines – the most basic needs for good hygiene - for close to a million people. Ryan provides resources and know-how, but more importantly he provides a legacy of self-sufficiency.

His story got me thinking about what legacies are really made of.  The dictionary describes the word legacy as “a law, a gift of property, especially personal property, by will or bequest.” That’s all fine and good, but what if we don’t’ have any money or personal belongings to leave behind? Does this mean we can’t leave a legacy? This definition also suggests that a legacy doesn’t happen until we die. It seems to me that our most important legacy is NOT something we leave behind; but rather it is molded and shaped by the actions we take while we’re here on earth. It’s too late to worry about legacies when we’re on our death bed.

If I was asked, I would define legacy as: “a gift of self or resources, in life and after; given to others through love, compassion and integrity; an inspiration for future generations.” This definition feels more encompassing and complete.

In many ways, we’re hardwired to help each other and legacies are a way of doing just that. Legacies also come in different shapes and sizes.  Some we wish we could forget like the Legacies of Shame - The Holocaust and 9/11. There’s no question those legacies were fuelled by misguided ideologies and while we’d like to wash away the stains they’ve left, they’re too deeply ingrained in our collective psyche. But there are many more great legacies.

  1. There are Legacies of Means - for those who have more money than they can ever spend in a lifetime. Warren Buffet, the multi-billionaire owner of Berkshire Hathaway, recently created a philanthropist club. To join this very exclusive club, you must 1) be a billionaire and 2) you must commit to giving at least 75% of your net worth to your favourite charities. Sara Blakely, the owner of Spanx and Bill Gates of Microsoft are among the club’s 143 members.
  2. There are Lasting Legacies – those that keep on giving, like Terry Fox’s Annual Marathon of Hope, whose foundation has raised over $650M for cancer research so far. Terry far surpassed his dream of raising $1 for each Canadian. There is Andre Agassi’s (former USA tennis player) Preparatory School that gives poor kids in Vegas – a city synonymous with excesses – an opportunity to prepare for and attend post-secondary education.
  3. There are Legacies of Compassion that help the most vulnerable members of society. Mother Theresa says she felt called to work with the “poorest of the poor”. Today, 517 of her missions operate in over 100 countries. It’s not surprising she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Mark and Craig Keilburger, two Canadian kids, started the WE DAY movement to inspire young people around the world to lead global change, right in their own communities. Their annual rally celebrates the accomplishments and fuels the inspiration of those amazing young people.

These are all admiral legacies in their own right and I am the first to applaud the incredibly positive impact these legacies have. But we must not forget the most important Legacies of You and Me; those small everyday expressions of love and acts of compassion that come from teaching our children to be kind; helping a friend who’s going through a rough patch or mentoring youth.

The greatest legacies have less to do with money or Grandma’s antique butter dish, and more to do with the way we treat the people we love, while we’re here. Maya Angelou captured the essence of legacy when she said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The emotional connections we have with each other are the stuff that the best legacies are made of.

Ryan Hreljac is still only 24 years old today. Imagine the legacy he’ll create in his lifetime, and it all started with $70 and a big dream. You can find more information about his charity at www.ryanswell.ca.  The footprint we choose to leave on this planet is ours to decide, but let’s be sure our legacies are not defined by chance or by historians. What will the legacy you are building today say about you tomorrow?
Population aging is inevitable in societies where you have a combination of declining birth rates and longer life due to medical advancements. It imposes new realities for these societies, link where they simply cannot afford to set an aging population adrift without the necessary programs and services to help them remain productive members of that society.  It is disheartening to hear leaders label aging members of the societies as economically unproductive; or to see politicians treat aging as if it is a scourge on society, ambulance where members of this growing club are seen as nothing more than a tax drain. Building more housing complexes that serve to isolate this generation from the youth of these societies is not the answer either.

What business and government fail to see is that today’s aging population is eager to contribute fully to society. Like Jack Kornfield, search author and Buddhist Practitioner, Boomers are asking: “How can I live in a way that maximizes, that fulfills the capacity for wakefulness, love, freedom, liberation of the human heart?”  One way is to create opportunities that reconnect the generations in meaningful and valuable ways. We need better approaches to facilitate the contribution of aging members of our societies well into the later stages of life. We need to make government funding available to cover the costs associated with creating new programs that promote the well-being of all generations. Our children and their children are starving for role models and mentors as they try to figure out this crazy world they live in, whether in matters of life or work. The opportunities are unlimited to create the Utopian societies we all dream about.

1.    At School

  • Invite the newly retired to help overwhelmed teachers with curriculum activities or to help children with special needs.
  • Partner Boomers with school counsellors to offer additional support to young people who are struggling with stress.
  • Involve Boomers in after school and local youth programs such as the YMCA.
  • Partner with libraries to start reading programs for children who have trouble reading.

2.    In community

  • Create volunteer programs to replace the music and arts programs that the schools can no longer afford to fund. These programs enrich us all.
  • Start new programs designed with children in mind through the local rotary clubs and legions.
  • Start genealogy clubs so children can learn about their ancestors.
  • Start cross-generational clubs at your church and involve youth.
  • Start home cooking classes and invite young people to socialize, cook and share meals and great conversations. Get them away from technology.
  • Use technology to match the interest of retirees with the needs of children.

3.    At Work

  • Find ways to involve soon-to-be-retired employees in activities and projects that help prepare the next generation of workers to take on leadership roles.
  • Invite retirees to participate in events that showcase career opportunities at your organization for those that are just beginning to consider post-secondary education and careers.
  • Get retirees involved in spreading goodwill about the company where they spent a career. You can’t put a price tag on that kind of goodwill.

4.    At Home

  • Partner with home builders to design and build inclusive communities that house multi-generations instead of housing that isolates the generations. Draw on successful models in Scandinavian countries.
  • Create neighbourhood activities that foster interaction between old and young.

John F. Kennedy once said: “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” This newest generation of seniors is ready to take on that new kind of leadership, one where they teach, but where they learn as much as they teach. And the younger generation is more than ready to teach the older generation. The collective experiences, insights and wisdom of Boomers beg to be openly shared with youth. The younger generations benefit from being exposed to new perspectives that enhance their understanding and it promotes well-being and development. The older generations benefit from maintaining invaluable connections with youth. The issue of ageism disappears and a new sense of purpose and contribution is ignited. It seems governments, businesses, schools and communities have important choices to make about how they will embrace this growing population segment. The best way to ensure the elders of a society remain vibrant and productive members is to facilitate their involvement, to liberate them to become all they are capable of becoming. By liberating them, society builds the foundation for paying forward generation after generation. Everyone wins. Utopia may not be that far-fetched after all.

Written by

Dianne Gaudet is a certified Coach who is passionate about helping her clients manage the dynamics of continual life transitions as they reach new heights of personal and professional success. Helping Boomers create rich and inspired lifestyle plans for the retirement life they want is one of her greatest joys. Dianne is the author of a new book, If There Are No Limits... A guide to living with passion, purpose and possibilities. She is also a motivational speaker, teacher and world traveller.