Editor’s Note: Due to Southeastern Council of Foundation’s ongoing EngAGEment Initiative, Pattie Johnson, an independent contractor funded by The Patterson Foundation, will attend the 2013 Grantmakers in Aging annual conference Oct. 16-18 in Kansas City, MO.
Several Southeastern Council of Foundations EngAGEment Initiative participants had a reunion with others involved across the country to review our successes and challenges and discuss what's next. We all agreed that the hallmark of the EngAGEment Initiative was its flexibility as the foundations in the room work to prepare communities for the Age Wave (for some, that Age Wave is already here!)
All of the programs represented in the room had to backtrack and revise their plans and each was different. Kansas City worked with government agencies and held luncheon meetings. At the other end of the spectrum, the SECF-led EngAGEment Initiative limited in-person meetings to the Annual Conference and stayed in touch with interested parties via the web. This variety of experience was difficult for the evaluator to synthesize, but was considered a strength of the initiative.
While the EngAGEment Initiative reunion was taking place, an SECF member, Torrey DeKeyser, who is the executive director of the Eyesight Foundation of Alabama, was leading another roundtable about opportunities in low-vision rehabilitation. Her co-facilitator was Brian Hofland, whom she originally met at an EngAGEment Initiative program at the SECF Annual Meeting. Brian was with the National Council on Aging when he spoke at the SECF meeting but is now head of Research to Prevent Blindness. As Torrey said, “Networking opportunities are important in accomplishing our goals.”
Because of the government shutdown, Kathy Greenlee, the administrator and assistant secretary of the Administration for Community Living (a recent combination of the Administration on Aging, Office on Disability, and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities), was unable to deliver the keynote address at the opening plenary. John Feather, CEO of Grantmakers in Aging, made a presentation on the state of aging and philanthropy. He reflected on several aging issues that are not as well-known as the “10,000 people will turn 65 every day until 2029.”
· The population shift is permanent for the foreseeable future.
· Hispanic Americans comprise the fastest growing segment of the aging population.
· Many of the boomers have never married and have never had children; where will their “family caregivers” come from?
There is much to be done in all communities to value the assets the aging population brings to the table, as well as to provide the support needed by the "oldest old."
At the plenary, the GIA Diversity Award was presented to The Atlantic Philanthropies. Stacy Easterly accepted the award. While The Atlantic Philanthropies will conclude its grantmaking in 2016 it is still looking for partners to fulfill its mission.
A particularly interesting concurrent session was Uniting Generations to Build Strong Communities. The moderator and panelists discussed their strategies and rationales for developing award-winning intergenerational communities, as well as barriers faced and lessons learned in the process. The ideas for “smashing silos” of age-related facilities and activities were innovative and inspiring:
· Have older adults to greet children at school each Monday, in many instances supplying the only positive communications the child received that week.
· Subsidized housing for senior citizens on the grounds of a boarding school – older adults tutored the students, attended sports events, etc.
Getting all stakeholders involved from the beginning was an important lesson learned by those who have built strong intergenerational communities.
As I write this, another SECF member has a featured role at the GIA Conference. Katie Midgley, program associate at the Plough Foundation, is one of the presenters on The Advantage Planning Process: A Practical Model for Funders, Grantees, and The Community.
During this session, participants learn about models enabling older adults to age in community and tools used to effectively determine the issues and needs of a community. A fellow panelist is Phil Stafford, director of the Center on Aging and Community at Indiana University, who was luncheon speaker at the 2012 SECF Annual Meeting – another example of the power of networking and connecting!