Announcing Elderburbia: Aging with a Sense of Place in America

October 27, 2009

Now available: Elderburbia: Aging with a Sense of Place in America, by Philip B. Stafford, Ph.D., Praeger Press.

Elderburbia jacket cover

The work is a labor of love, reaching back to memorable encounters with amazing elders over thirty years. It argues that a deep understanding of the experience of home and place is an essential starting point for discussions about “aging in place”, which too often equate “place” with “house.”  It provides a nice introduction to the use of ethnography and participatory methods towards understanding the lifeworld of elders in Bloomington, where I live. It also provides the first book length treatment of the national movement towards elder-friendly communities. My hope is that this will provide the impetus for a serious critique of our current model of aging, which focuses primarily on the individual aging body and not on the experience of aging in community. It suggests that aging is not IN the body, but in the RELATIONSHIP between the body and its environment – which is an environment replete with meaning and memory.

Oh… and about that title:  did you know that more elders live in suburbs than in cities and towns combined?  Are suburbs very well designed for growing old?  Read the book and you’ll find out!

I hope you will find the book stimulating. If so, add a comment and let’s have a discussion !

Making the Rounds – Aging Indiana

October 6, 2009

I had the pleasure recently of traveling to New Albany with Marie Beason and Marissa Manlove of Indiana Grantmakers Alliance. IGA has received funding in a national program of Granmakers in Aging entitled The EngAGEment Initiative. This is an effort to elevate awareness of aging issues within the philanthropic community and, secondarily, assist funders in developing their endowments through attention to these increasingly imporant issues. These roundtables, along with other forms of outreach, will continue into 2010. A recent survey of Indiana members of IGA revealed that only one in five funders saw aging issues as a priority for their foundations. Yet, 60% were interested in learning more about aging issues in their communities. Given that $66 billion will be transferred from the oldest to the next generation in Indiana alone in the next ten years, philanthropic organizations would  be well advised to develop stronger relationships with and a better understanding of the older population and its concerns, not merely about itself but about the generations to follow.

The IGA survey has helped inform research being commissioned by the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce Foundation (see NEWS at ). The Chamber has identified the aging workforce as a pillar issue this year and it’s great to see increased public attention. Being on the advisory group and having conducted some research on this as well, the issues are pretty fascinating. In the coming weeks, the Chamber will be going public with the findings and discussing the implications for the future economic health of Indiana.

Public discourse has noted the current reality for many, many Americans – that health insurance is inextricably tied to work. Insofar as capital benefits greatly from a flexible, mobile workforce, it is hard to understand why there are objections to more “portability” for insurance consumers. I have not heard anyone comment yet that many baby boomers might choose to leave paid work should a viable public option (or private) be made available outside of the workplace. Would that not be desired by many pre-Medicare folks who would like to retire. Would that not be desirable for young persons trying to break into careers? Would that not be desired by employers seeking to re-calibrate wages and salaries at lower levels?  Now the issue of brain drain is one that would have to be addressed should people start retiring earlier (again – as was the case until about ten or fifteen years ago).  The downside might be that, if people begin taking Social Security earlier, the pressures on that system will increase. Social Security has been fairly stable as people extend their working years – paying in for longer periods of time while delaying “pay out.”

It’s a complicated issue. Glad I am not the “czar” on this one!

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