Monday, March 25, 2013

Think Selfishly on Aging (Monday LINKS)

In preparing to run for a second term on the Columbia Council, I not only spoke with "Stroller Voters" about the issues facing young families, but also spent time with those who may fit under the category of "senior" or "retired adults".  I use those terms lightly because: 1) they are rarely self-identified, and 2) they are useless terms.

I sought out these individuals because I think that this population is one of the most pressing demographic changes for an organization like the Columbia Association.  I disagree with some of those I work with as to how we change to meet the demand, but agree that change is necessary.

During one of my first sit-downs on this topic, I was told something very important: Drop the labels.  "Stop saying 'seniors'".  This is so hard.  It is liking getting someone to pass the butter without being able to say "butter".  But the reasoning is sound - You shouldn't be trying to address a "senior" population, when you can instead ask the question "what do our current residents want twenty, thirty, and forty years from now?"  Representatives of CA's Senior Advisory Committee often say that most people "aspire to be seniors."  I like that.  It's true!  Unlike efforts to address children or different socio-economic groups, any discussion of "seniors" is a discussion of "us in the future."  We hope. 

Within that paradigm, the cognitive and empathetic blocks fall away.  We stop thinking about what "they" want and starting thinking about what "we" want.  We want the opportunity to stay engaged.  We want to stay active to the extent we are able.  We want to share the knowledge and experience we have developed through a career's-worth of work.  We want opportunities to interact with our friends and neighbors.

That's what makes a "senior discount" so facile and flat.  Sure, addressing a third party it makes sense -- Give "them" a discount.  But when we broaden it in the way described above (i.e., "let's give all of us a discount when we turn 65"), the balance sheets go red.

To truly be an 8-80 community, we need to think bigger than that.  Here are some ideas I have:

1) Expand the Volunteer Center to coordinate with retirement counselors and find placement for any retiree looking to use their skills and education in the community;

2) Redevelop CA's Advisory Committee Structure to solicit and place professionals leaving the workplace in important and useful roles aiding the development of CA Policy;

3) Develop more opportunities for inter-generational cooperation, such as Columbia Clean-up Day and other Village-wide events; and

4) Create educational and enrichment programming (i.e., Baltimore Speaker Series) with follow-up discussion groups amongst those who attended.

These are just some of the thoughts that came to me when I thought, very selfishly, on aging: What do I want for me?  Let's stop alienating our fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, friends, and neighbors.  They're us, just lucky enough to be older.


Despite the ridicule in the national news media over "losing key pieces from their Super Bowl run", the Baltimore Ravens defense may very well be better next year (not hard to move up from 25th in the league).  While other teams are throwing money at Ravens serving out their rookie contracts, the Ravens just spent the same amount of money ($35 mil over 5 years) on a 3-time Pro Bowler who had 11 sacks last season - Elvis Dumervil.  As I read elsewhere yesterday - the rest of the league is playing checkers, Ozzie Newsome is playing chess.

The bill criminalizing cyber-bullying has passed the House and moved to the Senate, where it seems likely to pass.  This bill gives me great concern.  I think of the lacrosse player suspended for bringing an equipment knife to school and the little boy making a gun out of pastry dough.  It is premised on vengeance, which may even be ok if there were clear language as to what breaks the law.  I hope I'm wrong, but I think this law could take one tragedy and spread it out over the lives of dozens of other young people, with very little effect on how our kids treat one another.

When a business decision comes into conflict with a politics, what wins out?  Towson University President Maravene S. Loeschke is about to find out.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Bill Woodcock notes more hair-pulling hysteria from those who believe that the Inner Arbor Plan is some great scheme to fleece CA lien-payers and line "someone's" pockets.  This presents an example of the inherent dangers of always being "against" something - if only half of the dozen or so people in favor of Cy Paumier's Plan had spoken out in favor of the Plan at the Planning Board (or even before the CA Board), who knows if we would have ever had the opportunity to turn to the Inner Arbor Plan.  But that didn't happen.  You have to wonder why that is...

That's all for today.  It appears we have the most significant snow-fall of this "winter" Spring.

Have a great Monday doing what you love!