The Longevity Revolution

March 27, 2014
By Avi Rose

Aging is not a new experience; people have been doing it for years! But as the wave of boomers hits our 60s and approaches our 70s, the discussion about how we age is noticeably intensifying.

Since last October, we at JFCS East Bay have joined together with our colleagues throughout the East Bay Jewish community to raise awareness and spark a creative exchange of ideas about what we envision as we age. The Longevity Revolution forum series has been stimulating and notably well-attended: clearly, the level of interest is high.

In reflecting on this crucial community conversation, a few things have struck me so far:

  • There is a huge overarching issue of people balancing their desire for independence with their desire for community. People by and large want to—or anticipate wanting to—stay in their own homes, but they don’t want to be isolated there. So how do we help people stay connected? What if there was a proliferation of attractive housing alternatives? Multi-generational residential complexes where people could access “assisted-living” services when and if they need them? Co-housing-like clusters where people could have a private living space while sharing community areas and resources with others? How do we encompass our full range of preferences: for “seniors-only” or multi-generational, for “Jewish-only” or multicultural? This is the perfect time for us to put our minds together, envisioning alternatives and exploring what it would take to bring them into being.
  • Many of us don’t want to “retire” in the conventional sense. We want to continue to work to some degree, but with a lot more flexibility. We want time to learn, re-explore past interests, spend time with family and friends, work for a better world, travel, and so much more. We want to feel useful, and we want to feel engaged.
  • Many of us don’t feel that we’ll be able to retire anytime soon and are not confident that we will have enough resources for a long and comfortable old age. This is a community issue as well as an individual one; communal housing alternatives and other programs will need to include subsidies if they are to truly meet community needs.
  • In the midst of all the excitement and new interest in aging boomers, some of us are already quite a bit older, increasingly living into and past our 80s. There are many in our community who already need the traditional array of services and supports: home care, transportation, gero-specialized medical and mental health services, and more. While we muster our energies to map out new alternatives for boomers, let’s not forget those who are older right now, especially those who can’t easily afford the services they need.

One final thought: older people are sometimes treated as “invisible” members of our society and patronized rather than truly honored. Let’s strive to do better. People at every age need to be treated with full respect.