How do you want to live your life into its second half? In your 60s and 70s? Your 80s and beyond?
One of the only experiences that every single one of us has in common is that we all age. You’re doing it right this second. And if you’re fortunate enough in your health, you will grow old. In fact, by 2030 one in four of us Minnesotans will be over the age of 65. This is an unprecedented demographic shift that’s happening all over the country. This is not an issue that affects “other” people. This is an issue that affects you, me, your family, your neighbors, the guy who bags your groceries and the woman who manages your finances. This affects us all.
Aging is a lifelong process of learning and growing, but the reality is this growth comes with changes to our physical and sometimes cognitive limitations. As our aging population in Minnesota grows, so too does the need for access to effective, affordable aging services — services that allow us to maintain our quality of life and help us age the way we want to.
So how well are we addressing the needs of our future selves?
A troubling trend
Well, despite nearly 25 percent of our population being older adults, less than 1 percent of Minnesota’s $1 billion philanthropic dollars are for older adult services. Greater Twin Cities United Way has cut all funding to local organizations that fund aging services, and it isn’t the only foundation to go this route. This troubling trend has meant that many nonprofits have been forced to shutter programs that serve seniors, while some have even had to close their doors and turn away the individuals and families they serve.
There seems to be an inverse proportion between the growing size of our older population and the funding that aging services receive. If this sounds like it doesn’t make any sense, it’s because it doesn’t. What does it say about our cultural values towards growing older if we allow these services to disappear? What does it say about the way we view old age? Doesn’t everyone deserve to age with dignity and equality?
So what can we do for our future selves today?
Before anything else, be mindful of the fact that you yourself are aging. Picture what you want the second half of your life to look like and realistically consider what support you’ll need to get you there. When it comes to securing our future, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Other actions to take
Supporting aging services doesn’t just mean financial contributions, though it certainly can. It also means being cognizant of the negative ways we view old age, joining the conversation around aging, electing policy makers who support aging services, and volunteering with local community organizations. There are dozens of wonderful nonprofits across the Twin Cities that support older Minnesotans. Even if it’s from individuals who contribute just a few hours a month, most nonprofits rely on volunteers in some form to actualize their mission. Nonprofits that support you.
This only works if members of every generation come together to collaborate and take care of each other — when we stop thinking of ourselves as “us” and ‘them,” “old” and “young.” We all age. It’s time to invest in your future self.
Deb Taylor is the CEO of Senior Community Services, a nonprofit that helps older adults and caregivers navigate aging to maintain independence and quality of life.
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