I am a millennial. I know, I basically told you I am an alien who wears thick rimmed glasses, skinny jeans and only shops at Whole Foods while I regale you with stories of my favorite indie band and the ethics of eating locally. I get it, my brethren and I have worn out our welcome tweeting our every pithy thought from on high as we judge the generations that have come before us, but I kinda need a minute or two of your time. In particular, I need to talk to my skinny jeaned compatriots and let them know about an issue that is important to me, and I think important to them.
Aging. No, I don’t mean that gray space between 27 and 32 when we start calling ourselves old and I definitely don’t mean when you have your first kid or buy your first house. I mean the folks around us like our parents, neighbors and grandparents who have somehow become invisible to us. I am talking about the boomer generation who taught us how to rock and now are teaching us how to break a hip. I am talking about the X’ers who taught us all about being selfish, but now are coming in upwards of fifty and are teaching us what it looks like when you don’t have enough saved for retirement. I am talking about the person in front of you on the street that stops short and it isn’t because they are looking at their phone, its because their walker got caught on the sidewalk.
We are a generation that has taken the best of those that have come before us and have made the world our own. We have championed social justice, remade language and care not one bit about gender norms, but somehow aging and caring for those who are, just doesn’t seem that important to us. It is not that we are cruel or even uncaring, but protecting the rights of elders just doesn’t make the cut for our metric minded culture. We can see how if we invest in schools, infrastructure and technology it will yield results for generations, but it isn’t like that with aging. Or is it?
The common reframe is that if we invest in the young people it will change the course of a that child’s life or their community and there will be no limit to the positive yield, but that protecting someone experiencing dementia that is near death doesn’t matter, right? Wrong
Let me lay a few stats about aging on you:
- Five million Americans experience dementia and they are cared for by 15.5 million family members.
- 1 out of every 10 seniors is abused or neglected
- 50% of seniors with dementia are abused or neglected(physical, sexual, financial, verbal, etc.)
- For every case of abuse or neglect reported, dozens are not
No, I’m not making these up our favorite aunts and beloved grandmas are being abused just because they are elderly and their abusers don’t think they will be reported.
Did you notice that stat that says that 15.5 million Americans are caring for someone experiencing dementia (that number is expected to explode in the coming decade)? Those folks taking care of them are family members like you and I. I bet some of them are even millennials. In fact there are a slew of apps and tech devices designed to make care taking easier for the connected millennial and their family.
So, I may have been a little tongue- in- cheek with this and I may have thrown a few barbs at my fellow millennials, but want you to see that the tremendous power we wield to create change isn’t just for children, women and the international community. It isn’t sexy and it certainly isn’t flashy.
We have the power to change the way elders are treated in our communities and we have a responsibility to speak up for those who can no longer speak up for themselves, but have blazed plenty of trails for us. So today, I challenge you to consider how an aging person would navigate the world we take for granted. Is there someone in your apartment building who needs help grocery shopping? Do you know a family experiencing the effects of dementia? Could you spend a little extra time with your grandma? Is there an elder issue before congress? Take a little time to add elder issues to your radar and you will be amazed by what you see and remember aging is a millennial issue.