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Minnesotans: It’s time to invest in your future selves

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Deb Taylor
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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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Nathan Johnson on 02/15/2019 - 07:06 pm.

    Beautifully stated, Deb. May your words be read and may the response be such that organizations such as yours flourish!

    • Submitted by Deb Taylor on 02/19/2019 - 05:01 pm.

      Thank you Nathan! There are so many ways to get involved with nonprofits like Senior Community Services http://www.seniorcommunity.org and help us flourish by giving of your time, your money and helping to spread the word about these opportunities to “give back” to older adults. It us so important to change the way we talk about what it means to grow old because we are all aging.

  2. Submitted by Marc Beitz on 02/16/2019 - 07:58 am.

    The generation that is now entering old age dismantled the welfare state. Hmmm.

  3. Submitted by Teresa Bonner on 02/16/2019 - 12:21 pm.

    Well stated! Aroha Philanthropies has been investing in older adults by encouraging and funding arts learning opportunities for older adults. People who take these classes are reporting that they are making new and/or stronger relationships, gaining confidence, and becoming interested in other community programs as a result.

    • Submitted by Deb Taylor on 02/19/2019 - 05:08 pm.

      Aroha Philanthropies does amazing work in our communities for older adults. Art is so important. Thank you Aroha Philanthropies for making older adults a priority.

  4. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 02/16/2019 - 03:06 pm.

    It is hard to argue with the points made here, but let me respond as an older adult with a serious inherited disease. I receive a lot of expensive services, which I deeply appreciate. However, as philanthropy dollars are limited, I would rather see society focus on the much less expensive, but more important needs of poor children, who have no power to advocate for themselves.

    What people over 65 most need is a purpose to live, which is the most important contributor to good health. We are past the stage where we need lots of stuff. Old reliable things will do just fine. At this stage, for me it is giving back in appreciation for all the blessings I’ve received, to make live better for our children and grandchildren. I’m not advocating cutting per capita spending for seniors with health needs, but would like to remind people that a lot of our spending provides things older adults don’t really want. We need to buy quality of life, not long life when we are a mere shadow of our former selves.

    Rather than just asking for more money be spent and attention given to seniors, let’s get specific about where the needs are and not take money from other deserving causes.

    • Submitted by Deb Taylor on 02/19/2019 - 05:10 pm.

      We completely agree that we need to invest in ‘quality of life’ for older adults. Echoing what Teresa stated above, we want to foster strong, meaningful relationships, confidence, and participation in community programs. We all need a “why” to get up out of bed.

      We believe keeping someone in their home and community is a large part of that quality of life. It gives them a choice over how and where they want to live. It gives them dignity to age the way they want to and not be segregated into senior institutions if they wish stay in their own communities.

      Most of all, we are advocating for equity for all ages.

  5. Submitted by bradley kaeter on 02/18/2019 - 08:24 am.

    I can see why the United Way cut back on funding, you simply get a better return on investment with children, you have a longer time to recoup any investments. Older adults have Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for a safety net.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/18/2019 - 11:04 am.

      Indeed, many of the cost of aging have been socialized. The costs of raising future tax payers, not as much.

    • Submitted by Deb Taylor on 02/19/2019 - 05:12 pm.

      We are also advocating for services for people who aren’t necessarily on programs like Medicaid. It makes more financial sense for all of us to create affordable services that allow older adults/seniors to stay in a home that is paid for, rather than be forced to leave and enter an expensive senior institution, and then lean into federal programs to help subsidize those costs.

      Youth services are far and away the most funded programs in Minnesota.

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