Guest Blog Post by Sharon Lewis, AARP New York, Executive Council Member. Follow her on Twitter: @sharonlewisnyc
AARP NYC launched a new Go Local campaign on August 6 which included an NYC mayoral town hall targeting the city’s 50-plus voter community. The room was abuzz with 1,000 attendees, over 50 media outlets and 10 of the 11 NYC mayoral candidates. What a happening for AARPNY!
These events often take on a life of their own and when one mayoral candidate called another candidate “Grandpa,” the press officially had another twist on the story to report. And they did!
- The comment was described as “being made in a room filled with senior citizens”.
- And, AARP was further defined as the organization behind “this senior citizen event”.
- The candidates represented referenced their views on “helping those senior citizens in the room”.
What is a senior citizen, I ask? Age or attitude?
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau, quoted in an NTAR Leadership Center Study, suggest that, by 2016, one-third of the total U.S. workforce will be age 50 or older, and will increase to 115 million by 2020 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010)
Supporting every possible product or service line, the advertisers are working hard to make “70 the new 50” and likewise convince us all…that the best is yet to come. The reality is that the words “senior citizen” still has a negative connotation in our society: retiree, old-timer, fuddy-duddy and such. When was the last time you heard someone refer to a senior citizen as a thought leader or an innovator?
So as someone on the very edge of the baby boomer tail, I find myself bewildered as people, politicians, candidates and others call the AARP membership of 50 – plus year olds senior citizens. And, I found myself laughing at the hypocrisy of the whole situation. When you looked around the room at the town hall in real-time, it did not appear that anyone in the room had taken a day off from the social adult day-care programs.
A 2012 Harvard Business Review Blog called: How Companies Must Adapt for an Aging Workforce does a nice job summarizing the situation:
- First, attitudes need to change; Businesses and people alike need to practice what they claim to support.
- Older workers are often seen as a burden, with younger candidates preferred in recruitment decisions. In economies where knowledge rules, the experience of older workers grows in value.
- Older people are seen as fragile. Yes, many are. Others are not. At some point, the 80:20 rule kicks in and with the population life expectancies ever increasing, the age where the disproportionate expenses truly kick into place is increasing as well.
So everybody, please, stop calling those who are aged 50-plus senior citizens. And for candidates: Recognize the new reality and explain how you will address the situations of those:
- Who are 50-plus and experiencing age discrimination in the workplace
- Who are dependent on social services and unable to earn an income any longer
- Who are unable to retire as planned because the costs of living are rising
- Who are uncertain how they will afford to age gracefully in place, in NYC, because of ever-increasing costs for housing and utility bills, issues of crime and safety and more!
Let’s get focused and back on track. NYC is one of the greatest cities on this earth. And the 50-plus are a key part of it all, working to make the city a great place to live, work and age.
BTW: For a detailed review of the issues NYC 50-plus voters are talking about around their kitchen table, check out: http://www.aarp.org/NYC50plus