Older adults are like other natural resources. We use them, use them up — with little or no regard for their value beyond the present. Fortunately, unlike the rest, older adults are the only natural resource to naturally replenish and, most impressively, increase in unprecedented numbers and pace.
Yet while we’ve barely succeeded with attempts to preserve, conserve, reserve and otherwise protect the depletion of minerals, threatened forests, rivers and oceans, and endangered species, the one natural resource we should “exploit” mostly goes to waste. Dismissed, disregarded, disrespected, stereotyped and otherwise misused and abused.
Just consider all the social and economic benefits this remarkable, regenerating, age-old human resource offers more of, compared to less mature counterparts: freer time, years of professional and life experience, disposable income, and the innate desire to continue to lead a relevant, purposeful life.
As we see the forest for the trees, it becomes clear older adults — individually and collectively — possess enormous potential. Just some examples of what society needs, what older adults can offer, and the personal and social value of exploiting one another.
Employers: Older adults offer unparalleled work experience, ethic, stability and enthusiasm. Older adults need adaptable and flexible employment opportunities.
College students and young adults: Many older adults live in homes with extra rooms. Many college students would appreciate the opportunity for discounted rent in exchange for providing chores and other supportive services.
Educators: Older adults are comparatively patient, considerate and nurturing, and have free time, literally. Students need mentors, friends and to learn at an early age to appreciate and value the aging experience.
Nonprofits: Older adults desire to be relevant and purposeful; to put their expertise to good use.
Aging services providers: Older adults benefit from social connections and intergenerational relationships. Rather than isolating older adults in age-segregated communities, how about championing living places, spaces and services to unite not divide generations.
TV and film creative content developers: Older adults have lived the experiences and experienced the lives you pretend to tell and show. With older adults on your team, you can produce more authentic, less stereotypic storylines. #WiseUpOnAging
Historians and politicians: Because older adults have lived through our history, they are inherently valuable resources from whom to learn from experience in order not to be doomed to repeat past mistakes.
Environmentalists/conservationists/advocates: Past generations have contributed both unwittingly and intentionally to the depletion of many natural resources. It seems fair that today’s older adults, particularly boomers, should and probably would, if asked, help empower younger generations to better use and protect all of Earth’s precious natural resources. In a word, this is true generativity.