By Thelma Reese
We are missing the other side of the senior story right now. On one side, we see decline, frailty, and dependence. A true story to be sure. On the other, we see experience, wisdom, and determination to fix the world, find meaning in our own lives, and leave a legacy that improves the lives of others. Both stories are true.
Let us not forget the second side of the story.
In these pandemic days, we are constantly — and correctly — reminded that people whose age classifies them as seniors are statistically the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus. People in their late 60s and upwards should be especially mindful of the importance of masking, social distancing, and staying home unless going out is necessary. However, the emphasis on seniors’ vulnerability should be sharply offset by the reality of senior activism, which is flourishing in this critical time.What can one person ever do in the face of overwhelming odds? Many of society’s most pressing problems are being addressed powerfully by seniors, devoting their energy, passion, and smarts to bringing change to a world that always needs fixing, but now does more than ever.
There are senior activists all around us, though most are invisible to the general public, and don’t care whether what they do is visible to others or not. They are doing the right thing while they enrich their own lives and ours, challenging us by their example.Their physical vulnerability and various limitations have nothing to do with or diminish their passion, commitment, and activism. Their presence and activism inspire us in a time when we need inspiration. Their example is needed for their disheartened contemporaries and all who fear and dread aging. They show us the possibility of growth and fulfillment as we age; they show us how we discover our own power and value in seniority when we act.
So while we prepare for our next Zoom meeting on how to support free, fair elections in November, remove the current occupant of the White House, flip the Senate and hold the House, here is a list of just some of the many sources of activism opportunities for seniors to engage in as they save the world:
Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) Americans for Democratic Action has been and will continue to be a forthright liberal voice of this nation. We work to advocate progressive stances on civil rights and liberties, social and economic justice, sensible foreign policy, and sustainable environmental policy.
Common Cause The Committee to Protect Journalists promotes press freedom worldwide and defends the right of journalists to report the news safely and without fear of reprisal. CPJ protects the free flow of news and commentary by taking action wherever journalists are under threat.
Granny Peace Brigade The Granny Peace Brigade stands for peace. We stand for human rights and justice. We oppose war, occupation, rendition and torture, and the violence of poverty and racism. We are committed to the struggle to make a safe and peaceful world for all children and grandchildren, ours, and everyone’s.
Committee to Protect Journalists The Committee to Protect Journalists promotes press freedom worldwide and defends the right of journalists to report the news safely and without fear of reprisal. CPJ protects the free flow of news and commentary by taking action wherever journalists are under threat.
Elders Action Network (EAN) We’re building a movement of elders to address the social and environmental crises of our time!
Elders Standing for Fair Elections (ESFE)(a campaign of EAN)To ensure that all eligible voters are able to exercise their right to cast a vote in the November 2020 general election safely, easily, and with confidence that their vote is duly counted.
Elders Climate Action (ECA, a project of EAN) We are committed to using our voices, our votes, and our collective power to push for policies and practices that will reduce greenhouse gases to a level consistent with life thriving on our planet.
Human Rights First Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York, Washington D.C., Houston, and Los Angeles.
Indivisible We’re a grassroots movement of thousands of local Indivisible groups with a mission to elect progressive leaders, rebuild our democracy, and defeat the Trump agenda.
The Lincoln Project The Lincoln Project is holding accountable those who would violate their oath to the Constitution and put others before Americans.
Share Our Strength (SOS) Share Our Strength’s mission is to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and abroad. From making calls to sending postcards and/or financial aid; from marching to Tweeting; from Zooming to writing; seniors participate and lead. They share the same general concerns about today’s world as younger people have — despite other pressing concerns about distancing from loved ones and neighbors, which exacerbates the problems caused by isolation.
Right now seniors’ participation is more important than ever, and not just because the world is in disarray. According to the AARP’s 2010 research study, loneliness in adults over 60 is a predictor of functional decline and death. Good news then for senior activists who are not only doing their part to save the world but, in this time of enforced isolation, are also improving their own quality and even length of life through social interaction.
About the author
Dr. Thelma Reese is the author of The New Senior Woman and The New Senior Man and creator of the blog, www.ElderChicks.com. She’s a retired professor of English and Education, the former spokesperson for Hooked on Phonics, and has long been active in national and Philadelphia-based educational and cultural initiatives. She and BJ Kittredge, a retired health care professional and educator, are the authors of the new book, How Seniors Are Saving the World: Retirement Activism to the Rescue! (Rowman & Littlefield, June 10, 2020).