Daily Times Articles
What is The 50+ Network for Creative Engagement?
By Carolyn Stegman, 50+ Network for Creative Engagement
For more than a year, I have been writing about the 40-plus nonprofit and public service organizations of The 50+ Network for Creative Engagement. Some might still be asking: What is the 50+ and why are these groups becoming members?
Let’s start answering that question by looking at aging. By 2020, U.S. Census data projects that 40 percent of the population on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland will be more than 50 years old, translating to tens of thousands of people. Because of the Shore’s amenities, many of those older adults have migrated here, and to nobody’s surprise, they are staying because they like it!
This dynamic group is also reframing many antiquated stereotypes of aging. Older adults are living longer because many are doing what it takes to stay active and healthy. Many are engaged in encore careers, volunteering, joining nonprofits boards of directors, participating in educational programs and becoming active in civic affairs.
Concurrently, Shore people and organizations, including businesses, are refocusing their attitudes about aging citizens. Burden? Hardly! Gold mine of opportunity? You bet! According to The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, this population is slated to bring billions of dollars into our economy. That’s right — Billions. And beside the money, they bring talent, creativity and lifetimes of experience.
So why would organizations like Assateague National Seashore, Coastal Hospice, the Salvation Army, plus all of our hospitals and institutions of higher learning want to join? Because they either serve our aging population and/or that population serves them.
The 50+ Network for Creative Engagement recognizes the significance of the graying of Delmarva, and as such has joined together this coalition of community organizations to expand the range of services for older adults. Demographics have presented a unique circumstance for the Shore and it is one worth exploiting. Visit www.macinc.org.
Working Caregivers Have a Place to Turn
By Carolyn Stegman, 50+ Network for Creative Engagement
Last year, the National Family Caregivers Association noted 65 million people cared for someone at home in the U.S. On the Lower Eastern Shore, that’s almost 40 thousand family members or neighbors helping one another.
A Gallup poll conducted in 2011 tells us that many caregivers are also employed. In fact, 42 percent of workers regularly cared for older adults between 2006 and 2011.
Accidents, illness or chronic conditions are just a few issues requiring a caregiver’s regular or long-term help. Caregiving encompasses tasks from fixing meals to total care of a bed-ridden person. It could mean 20-plus hours of care on top of a 40-hour workweek, leaving little time to catch up with family or life in general.
Caregiving begins with love and joy or a sense of duty, but without help from professionals or others it can be lonely and stressful, affecting physical or mental health and even financial status. Working caregivers frequently take off time to escort loved ones to appointments or deal with unexpected issues causing tardiness or missed days of work.
The National Family Caregivers Association estimates that absent working caregivers cost employers over $34 billion yearly. Many times careers are put on hold because of caregiving demands, which means lower personal incomes, and long-term effects on retirement and even local economies.
When the stress is great enough, it can lead to family break-ups as a loved one moves to a nursing home or other facility.
Caregivers often don’t know where to go for help. The Caregiver Resource Center at MAC Inc. is the place for answers — answers to what caregivers or professionals need, plus how to pay for it. Information, training, social gatherings, counseling and connections to resources or other caregivers is the mission.
Working caregivers could attend “Happy Hours” offered monthly at various county libraries, or gather with friends over a cup of soup or cider as they learn where to get help and how to make caregiving easier. Frequent presentations on caregiving issues are also given at workplaces, civic clubs, religious organizations and other community gatherings.
Want more information? Call Dr. Renée S. Fredericksen at 410-742-0505, ext. 115, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a connection to help at the Caregiver Resource Center where the door is always open and there are no wrong doors or silly questions.
PACE is a model of community leadership
In an era of much political posturing and incivility, one local organization stands above the fray — PACE (Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement) at Salisbury University. Placing a high value on dignity and respect, PACE supports civil discourse even when addressing controversial issues about which people feel passionately.
PACE teaches that democratic deliberation is a healthy, participatory dialogue of engaged citizens, and is a valuable alternative to verbal intimidation and contentiousness between factions.
In accomplishing its mission to serve the region as a non-partisan “public square” for ideas and debate, most PACE forums and events are open to the public, and many 50-plusers take advantage of this opportunity.
“This institute is about learning how to become politically engaged within your community at any level and becoming a leader in any environment,” said Managing Director Leah Reynolds.
“Change does come from civil discourse, civil polite discourse involving honest, straightforward opinions and communication of facts. At its core, civility requires respectful engagement: a willingness to consider other views and place them in the context of history and life experiences.”
With this in place, PACE forums tackles many topics, from the rise of the Tea Party to the ethics of poverty, and from registering to vote to the issues surrounding gay marriage. In the forum on gay marriage, held before Maryland’s landmark election, people on both sides of the issue discussed their views. Some in the audience were strongly opposed, others strongly in favor.
Some were there to help themselves decide. What was remarkable was the civility of the evening— discourse, civil discourse, not finger pointing, not name calling, not attacking, not denigrating others. The same atmosphere was found in other forums: Maryland Dream Act, civil rights in Maryland and the relationship of Congress and the executive branch on the military and foreign policy.
Getting older is not simultaneous with dropping out, and many people over 50 want to stay informed about a variety of issues affecting our lives. We are finding that PACE is not just for students, but is a gem in our midst for all — a place to learn and foster informed decisions.
PACE reaches out in other ways. In November, it teamed up with UMES and community organizations to provide a box filled with a hearty Thanksgiving meal to more than 600 local families in need. Community members and students packed each box, demonstrating the kindness of strangers, diverse in age and beliefs, yet working together to give back.
ALL Helps Older People Pursue Learning
SALISBURY — An exciting event happened this fall on the Eastern Shore — the Association for Lifelong Learning (ALL) implemented its first classes. ALL wanted to bring together older persons who were interested in pursuing learning and intellectual stimulation with like-minded people. Basically, they formed a cooperative educational community where members would plan and participate in non-credit courses in fields such as history, literature, art, science, philosophy and current events. The traditional lecture format is replaced by open discussions and sharing knowledge among course leaders and participants.
In the past few weeks, classrooms at Salisbury University were filled with gray-haired people taking one or more of the six courses offered. And, SU has opened its doors for more courses starting in February 2013.
Lots of retired professors are coming back to the classroom (as volunteers) to teach these courses, which usually last six to eight weeks. And with no papers to grade or tests to give, they find satisfaction in the pure joy of teaching. Furthermore, many, for the first time, are teaching people their own age, and face an interactive classroom full of motivated people with much life experience. It doesn’t get better than that.
“It is wonderful to keep learning new things and meeting new people,” said Carletta Toewater. “And it keeps the old brain cells going.”
“I think the Association for Lifelong Learning is a terrific value. For $30 a semester, I can take as many courses as I choose. I am presently taking three classes and stimulated by interesting instructors and discussions with my peers,” said Kay Spruell.
Graying up our classrooms is an exciting idea for many of the thousands of older adults on the Shore. Most believe that learning should never stop. In fact, it has been proven that intellectual stimulation is good for our mental, emotional and physical health.
ALL is proof positive that college campuses are not just for the young and or that retired teachers and professors do not just disappear and go out to pasture. Combining the lifetimes of experience of both teachers and learners makes for a dynamic classroom.
With ALL, older persons have now another choice. For more information, write to the Association for Lifelong Learning, PO Box 132, Salisbury, Md. 21803-1342, or email ASSOCFORLL@hotmail.com.