Our communities' organizations depend largely, or entirely, on volunteers, of which a very high proportion are seniors. It can be easy to minimise this contribution.
Here’s a short test for you: you pass three people sitting on a bench; one is training for a triathlon; one started a non-profit that has since received substantial federal funding and one has a deep expertise in public administration. Other than the fact that they are all sitting on the bench, what do they have in common? A) They all live in Sutton B) They are all women C) They all have white hair D) All of the above.
If you guessed D, pat yourself on the back and then take a moment to recognize just how fortunate our community is to have this rich and deep source of talent and inspiration amongst our 65 and over population. Maybe also take a moment to acknowledge that had you just passed these three white haired women sitting on a bench you might have not noticed them at all or noticed them and thought ‘wow’ we have many seniors here, maybe with an underlying feeling that this represents a weakness rather than a strength for Sutton.
I consider myself privileged to count these women in my circle of friends and acquaintances and yet it is only recently, in casual conversation, that I have come to realise just how talented they all are – due to their long and accomplished careers, or just the belief that age does not have to be an impediment to taking on new challenges. It is all too easy, even for me who is also a grey-haired senior, to see only the color of their hair, rather than the individual, and to underestimate what a substantial and tangible benefit older adults bring to our community.
It is difficult to imagine Sutton without the depth and breadth of its non-profit organizations that touch and support so many aspects of our lives. These organizations depend largely, or entirely, on volunteers, of which a very high proportion are seniors. It can be easy to minimise this contribution – after all what else are these old people going to do with their time? But to do so belittles the fact that time is a precious commodity and in addition to their time our older fellow citizens also donate their unique skills, career and life experience, knowledge and perspective to the benefit of our non-profits, often in the role of administrators on their boards.
Let’s not also underestimate the value of grandparents in acting as carers for their children’s children so enabling parents to make their living; the value of seniors acting as carers for their own parents or partners who can thus continue to live at home. In smaller communities like ours, with fewer services, these actions also contribute in direct and indirect ways to the wellbeing and economy of our community.
We are all people on our way to becoming seniors so let’s not treat this important part of our population as a burden but rather as a treasure, and to recognize that beneath that white hair is a life as rich, varied and of value as your own.