The population of concern for “aging” is everyone. Healthy, purposeful longevity has universal appeal, because everyone has a personal interest. Everyone wants to grow old rather than die young; even those individuals who embrace “anti-aging” products and schemes.
Why, then, is it so challenging to gain support for aging-related issues among policymakers and taxpayers? It could be the representation of the concern misses the mark.
Associations, institutions and authorities who advocate for support of various aging issues tend to rely on two basic appeals: 1) Older adults, particularly those who are disadvantaged, deserve to age with dignity; or 2) We need to accommodate our rapidly aging population.
Both appeals are indisputable. But, the problem is, the first appeal positions older adults as “them not us” and their needs as “special interests,” which translates to competing interests when it comes to divvying up limited resources. And the latter, practical appeal is simply too abstract and too negative.
Advocates should refocus their efforts toward making appeals more personal. Concerns need context. Demonstrate the instinctual “Why should I care?” and social fatigue becomes social movement. Fortunately, there are a number of vital issues that represent personal and positive perspectives with intergenerational, universal appeals. Consider, for example:
- Intergenerational workforces – because the need to earn and desire to contribute are ageless
- Caregiver education, training and support – because everyone is, needs, or will be a caregiver
- Livable communities – because solutions benefit young and old
- Long-term care insurance – because this will help ease everyone’s anxiety with aging
- Alzheimer’s treatment and prevention – because of its universal fear and massive financial burden
- Repurposement – because longer life should inspire opportunities and optimism
- Inventive, innovative and adaptive support – because longevity should be liberating not confining
By using “healthy, purposeful longevity” to frame an over-arching concern with a population of everyone, advocacy for special interests of older adults — be it affordable healthcare, nutrition, housing, services, elder justice, government entitlements – is no longer a zero-sum game. Everyone is all of us not them. A rising tide lifts all boats, to put it metaphorically.