How will we help our seniors in the future?

October 26, 2011


Last Friday  I attended the Senior Symposium 2025, along with 140 others. It was sponsored by Wilshire Community Services, SLO County Community Foundation, the Villages, CHW Hospitals and Sierra Vista Medical Center. The goal was to bring like-minded people together to exchange ideas and to develop a plan to meet the needs of seniors, the fastest growing population group.

The event was well-planned and executed, which helped create a positive environment in which to develop opportunities and possibilities for seniors. After each discussion/panel/speaker, participants voiced their opinions via voting.

At the closing, 100 percent of those voting indicated that they were either “very interested” or “interested” in continuing the work that was done that day. This was indeed consensus and collaboration in process.

It especially interested me that 55 percent of those voting agreed that we need to change the “American Dream” from one of ‘independence’ to one of ‘interdependence’ in order to survive.

The dream of ‘independence’ served our country well during its formative years, but is no longer an effective model. Imagine yourself, as an independent driver, coming to an intersection with a stoplight and driving confidently through on a green light. No matter the desire for independence, you are dependent on the driver going in the other direction to obey the red signal and stop. Each of us depends daily on fellow citizens to obey societal laws. Our world is too complex for independence. Besides being interdependent, doing for others and having them do for us can do much to reduce stress and send good endorphins coursing through our bodies.

Our country faces a frightening time of economic instability. Governments at all levels are drastically cutting budgets, leaving our most vulnerable members without needed services.

Until our economic situation improves, and we are assured that it will be a slow process, we must find other ways to support these groups. The vulnerable do not have the luxury or the means to sustain themselves during this long recovery period.

A universal theme seemed to be that we can no longer depend on government to care for the riskiest population groups—seniors, children, the disabled and the mentally ill, to mention a few.

What I heard succinctly was that we must recreate the old-fashioned sense of community. Remember the days of barn raisings, community planting and harvesting, taking in less fortunate neighbors and relatives.  Each of us in our own neighborhoods must begin to create community where we live—people who care about each other and are willing to help when a neighbor is in need, temporarily or permanently. In my own neighborhood, a group of people are building the Oak Park Community, neighbor by neighbor.

Parents, grandparents, neighbors must pick up the slack in schools. They must help provide transportation and care for sick or disabled persons; must open their hearts to others in need.

Adults must set an example of service for their children. RSVP, a program of senior volunteers reports that volunteers 55 and older provide over 200,000 hours of service yearly to the community. Studies continue to show that prevention is cheaper than picking up the broken pieces.

We must begin teaching a sense of and need for community at the pre-school level and continue it through the school years, so that we can survive economic downturns. When we cut care to the elderly living in their own homes, they become institutionalized, costing us more money. When we cut the quality of education, and can’t provide critical thinkers for the next generation of workers, it will take years to recover.  We might save immediate dollars if we put foster kids on their own at age 18, but statistics show that this decreases their success rate and costs more in the long run.

We must act now—using existing communities to teach interdependence—Boys and Girls Clubs, schools, Scouting, churches and other such organizations. Let’s help and support them to expand their programs which encourage youth and adults to perform acts of service in their community.

From my perspective, the trickle down approach to the economy doesn’t seem to work. How about a trickle-up plan where we start with our youngest citizens who are gathered in these settings and teach them the importance of interdependence and community and watch it trickle up until we have a cadre of adults who care about and for each other.

When children and seniors and adults in between are engaged in their communities, it will be more cost effective and encompassing.

Judythe Guarnera is a retired program director in the fields of aging and volunteerism. She contributes to her community through her own volunteer work in those same fields. She is a mediator for Creative Mediation.





  1. SewerHeightsRez says:

    Considering the mess the Baby Boomers have made of everything we have touched, I expect our kids to adopt a “care program” of herding us into buildings and pumping Zyklon B through the aircon systems.

    (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
    • Black_Copter_Pilot says:

      Not every boomer voted for Mr. Obama, some need to be given a pass, don’tchathink?

      (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
      • Typoqueen says:

        Well it’s a good thing that the majority did vote for Obama, if not then Granny wouldn’t have her Medicare or her SS..

        (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
        • r0y says:

          Yes, because whenever a non-democrat gets elected president, seniors do not get their medicare or social security. It happened every time!

          (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
          • Typoqueen says:

            Hmm excuse me, hasn’t this been the mantra of the new Republicans, so are you saying that they’re lying?

            (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
            • r0y says:

              It’s been the mantra of the democrat party for years! Old people will eat catfood! The water will be poisoned! The earth will END if democrats are not elected.

              Is it any wonder their party attracts fools?

              (-2) 2 Total Votes - 0 up - 2 down
  2. r0y says:

    When children and seniors and adults in between are engaged in their communities, it will be more cost effective and encompassing.

    Please do not take this the wrong way, but how? I mean, volunteering is great, but at the end of the day, nothing is free. Someone, somewhere has to work to provide the benefits or means of distribution. I understand how communal utopias work on paper, but I also understand the reality that is the human condition that never seems to be taken into account. Communism, for example, is a FANTASTIC model… on paper and in theory. In practice, it is nothing but a disaster. It’s great that so many elderly are volunteering, but their volunteering is often made possible by pensions and retirement plans that the younger generations are highly likely not to have. What happens then? Maybe I need to attend one of these and become more involved!

    My gut prediction is, depressing as it is: the elderly will soon become the most abused sector of the U.S. population, mainly because they will be seen as the ones who screwed everything up, and took so much for so long, and enjoy the fruits of youth’s labors (which is really what most pensions or social security is, in the end). This will happen after so many “youths” go without for a while – or are told, “sorry kid, there’s not enough left for you.” The ponzi schemes ultimately come crashing down.

    Whether they actually screwed things up or took anything is up to debate, but one can begin to see it in the youths of today. It’s not likely to get any better, as victimization training and indoctrination is a well-established norm in our society.

    Finally, I have an issue with your paragraph:
    At the closing, 100 percent of those voting indicated that they were either “very interested” or “interested” in continuing the work that was done that day. This was indeed consensus and collaboration in process.
    Getting 100% of “like minded people” to agree is not difficult. How could it not be a consensus if they are all like-minded? Just a pet-peeve of mine.

    The challenges that will face all of us as we get older are nothing new. There will always be more and more elderly, as each generation tends to propagate. This issue will always be relevant, and more so in the coming years. I hope much good comes of it, thank you for sharing this with us.

    (2) 12 Total Votes - 7 up - 5 down
    • Paso_Guy says:

      Well stated.

      (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
    • bobfromsanluis says:

      “Whether they actually screwed things up or took anything is up to debate, … ” that sounds just like a libertarian talking point, IMO. Now I am “assuming” that your comment was directed at Social Security directly, since the “problem” of pensions going away is not the responsibility of those who receive them. I think this opinion piece is another illustration of the general dissatisfaction being expressed by the OWS movement. Why is Social Security having the financial problems that are being reported? Well, first off, Social Security is on very solid ground, being able to pay out all claims in full until 2037 if nothing else is done to remedy that situation, so the so-called “reporting” on the demise of Social Security is nothing but a smoke screen attempt at painting Social Security as needing “fixing”, which is just an attempt to dismantle the program so that Wall Street can get their hands on those billions of dollars. As for the disappearing pensions in America, again, you can thank Wall Street for that as well.

      (-1) 7 Total Votes - 3 up - 4 down
      • r0y says:

        There seems to be no shortage of people who assume they know exactly what is and what is not some ideological talking point. Usually, I listen to the statement and just evaluate it based on what little common sense God blessed me with; I try my best to bypass any indoctrinated filters my surroundings try to impose on me. But that’s just me.

        Second, if you think Social Security is A-OK because someone *thinks* it might be solvent until 2037, then you must not really understand Ponzi Schemes. There is no account with your (or mine, or anyone’s) name on it. You pay a premium, they pay out claims. It’s the WORST possible model for an insurance company and yet it still is around. Remember, Ponzi Schemes work for the top layers, but never for the bottom layers. I think we’re just now getting the final/bottom layer.

        Next, one of the main reasons the Fed and Federal Government continually steals our wealth via inflation, lowers or reduces the payouts (comparable to prior years’ value), and increases the premium (SS tax) on the providers, people without any clues on this can feel safe that everything is under control.

        Even going to one of the most liberal news sources ever created backs this up, feast your eyeballs on this. Solvent? You think SS is solvent? Let me state this as clear as I can: Social Security has no money in it. All of the payouts are BORROWED. All of their “funds” are BONDS and other securities ISSUED to investors. There is NO CASH. Maybe you define solvency in liabilities? The rest of the world uses ASSETS (less liabilities) to determine solvency.

        Even when Greenspan decided to take in more than they pay out (it’s so solvent!) the excess money was rolled into the U.S. Treasury for our politicians to steal… I mean spend… I mean, redistribute. You really should educate yourself on SS and not immediately jump up and cry “libertarian!” as if that’s something bad or wrong.

        And what is it with people all of a sudden crying out how “OWS” is for this and that – when the tea party was for the exact same thing, they were horrible racist, all-white, Christian males (and whatever the loony left thinks is taboo). The ignorance, whether instilled or self-imposed in this nation is simply amazing, sometimes.

        (-4) 8 Total Votes - 2 up - 6 down
        • bobfromsanluis says:

          “There is no account with your (or mine, or anyone’s) name on it. ” Hum, I do get a mailing from Social Security every five years or so showing me exactly how much I am going to get when I reach the age to start drawing SS. It shows me what an early pay out figure will be if I start at age 62, the normal age of 66 and how much more I could get if I wait until age 70. I also remember that there is an account number for my account, my Social Security number. Where do you come up with your talking points anyway? You sound like George Bush when he proclaimed that all SS had was “paper” (the bonds you are deriding), the very same bonds that established George W. Bush’s wealth when he took control of those bonds at either age 18 or 21. If you don’t want your share of those bonds, I will gladly take your share for you, or I’m sure a lot of non-profits would really like them as well. Any future financial problems that SS may have can easily be remedied by raising the cap on mandatory deductions. Nice try though.

          (0) 4 Total Votes - 2 up - 2 down
          • r0y says:

            It seems to me you either clearly do not understand how the Social Security system works, or are being disingenuous.

            The numbers you see mailed to you are estimated payouts based on current economic factors. It is not an account with a lump of money in it ready for you to take. It is an estimated payout.

            I got my “talking points” from the Social Security Administration. But what do they know, right?

            (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down

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