Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New York Seniors4Kids Connect With Legislators

Headed by New York Seniors4Kids State Coordinator Paul Arfin, seven Captains4Kids visited legislators and legislators' offices in Albany, NY on Tuesday, May 25 as part of Winning Beginning New York's "Strengthening the Pre-K Investment: A Working Forum."

Captains had in-person visits to five legislators' offices, and hand-delivered New York Seniors4Kids Profile Publications to 62 legislative offices. Way to go, and thank you for all you do!

Photo captions: TOP, from L-R: Linda James, Henriette Miller, Marci Young of Pre-K Now, Margie Usher, Emma Kimble, Vivian Spears and Rosena Addison. BOTTOM, from L-R: Margie Usher, Linda James, State Senator Joseph Robach (R) of Rochester, Paul Arfin and Rosena Addison.

From Our Policy Team: America’s budget matters for all ages

This blog is part of Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW)’s 2nd annual blog day in honor of Older Americans Month. Share your thoughts on how the budget can support persons of all ages by visiting WOW’s website and writing your own blog

Above call, the federal budget is an expression of our values as a nation. In making a budget, Congress chooses what investments to make and how to raise adequate revenues to support those investments. Those budget decisions should be a manifestation of American values.

There is no greater core American value than our commitment to support families when they face financial hardship, disability, or death. Our budget should in particular support the most vulnerable members of the family: our children and seniors.

Many are using the economic downturn to argue for a reduced commitment to families. Reducing the deficit in the long-term is important because an unsustainable debt could harm our ability to make needed investments. However, enacting a balanced budget now would actually be counter-productive to an economic recovery. During a recession, deficit spending is necessary to get the economy moving again.

As Congress considers budget reforms, lawmakers should resist the temptation to cut vital benefits like Social Security. Congress should keep its promise and strengthen Social Security for all generations, ensuring that children, youth, and seniors receive critical investments across the lifespan.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Inter-Generational Center Site Visit: Moving Forward

Yesterday's intergenerational site visit event, where Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families Carmen Nazario and Maryland Senator Ben Cardin showed their support for intergenerational programs, was a fabulous step as we at GU work to spread this successful model across the country.

At the event, GU Executive Director Donna Butts called on the Assistant Secretaries to convene a policy summit to forge a public-private partnership in which federal agencies, foundation leaders, policy makers and service providers can work together to increase the number of facilities that connect generations instead of separating them. She also urged policy makers to use an intergenerational lens when considering new policies and reauthorizations such as the Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Older Americans Act (OAA).

Here at GU, we're hard at work on moving forward with these key ideas. Join our work and be part of the intergenerational movement!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Inter-Generational Center Site Visit A Success!

We are celebrating the success of a wonderful site visit today at the Easter Seals’ Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Inter-Generational Center in Silver Spring, Md. where Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families Carmen Nazario and Maryland Senator Ben Cardin -- along with many other governmental, philanthropic and executive leaders -- came together to stress the importance of cost effective and high-quality intergenerational shared sites for vulnerable seniors and children.

In their first joint public appearance, Assistant Secretaries Greenlee and Nazario praised the success of the program and encouraged others around the country to adopt the intergenerational model.

“One of the beauties of this facility is that it was intentionally designed to recognize the importance of relationships at all ages,” Assistant Secretary Nazario said. “This is the type of program that we need to promote throughout the country.”

“Seniors want and need to be active members of their communities and their families and their faith organizations for as long as they live,” Assistant Secretary Greenlee said. “It’s just so wonderful to come to a place like this and say, ‘This is the best we can do, and we should promote this everywhere in the nation.’”

Maryland Senator Cardin echoed the Secretaries’ remarks, calling intergenerational centers a “win-win-win” solution.

“The Easter Seals’ Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Inter-Generational Center is what I would call a ‘win-win-win’ for everyone involved,” said Senator Cardin. “It provides children with the support and comfort that can come from older adults, it gives seniors a sense of purpose as they interact with youngsters and it means communities will be able to pool their resources to provide more comprehensive services to both children and seniors. Inter-generational centers are an innovative, creative approach to help children, seniors and communities as they struggle with scarce resources.”

Attendees heard from Pamela Perry, the mother of twin 4-year-olds, one developmentally disabled, the other typically developing, who found the Inter-Generational Center in early 2009 after looking for a facility that could serve the needs of both of her children. At the Inter-Generational center, Perry found a place where both of her children could learn and grow together while forming valuable relationships with older adults. “When [my daughter] joined Easter Seals she was withdrawn and shy,” Perry said. “She has become a confident, conversant, joyful girl.” Her children have grown socially and intellectually from their interaction with older adults at the center. “For them, their elder friends are warm, caring grandparent substitutes,” Perry said.
“What we’re doing here before is not ‘what’s nice,’ but indeed, very necessary,” said Lisa Reeves, President and CEO of the Easter Seals Greater Washington-Baltimore Region, citing billions of dollars lost every year by businesses whose employees are struggling with caregiving responsibilities. “What you’re seeing here today is an opportunity to lead, not be led; to be ahead of the curve, not to react.”

Also in attendance were Bryan Samuels, Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families and Joan Lombardi, Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development Administration for Children and Families.

Thanks to all who worked long and hard to make this event possible, especially Lisa Reeves, Easter Seals Greater Washington-Baltimore Region Board Chairman Ralph Boyd and the whole Easter Seals team.

Photos: (Top) Sen. Cardin and Amare Smith, 4; (Middle) Assistant Secretary Greenlee watches an intergenerational activity; (Bottom) Assistant Secretary Nazario watches an intergenerational activity with Generations United Executive Director Donna Butts

For more photos, visit our Flickr album for the site visit.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Restoring the Social Security student benefit: The best policy idea you haven’t heard of yet

I do believe we are responsible for the widow and the orphan.”

— Richard Gilbert, Tea Party supporter (New York Times, April 16, 2010)

Whether you are a Francis Perkins admirer or Sarah Palin follower, Americans believe Social Security is a promise worth protecting for all generations. Supporting the children of a diseased and disabled parent is a core American value enshrined in the values of the Social Security program, and reinstating the student benefit for post-secondary education should be a top priority of any reforms to strengthen Social Security. Since 1939, Social Security has supported the children of deceased, disabled or retired workers — that support now helps keep over a million vulnerable children out of poverty. In 1965, Congress recognized the growing importance of a college education and extended Social Security benefits for children of a deceased or disabled parent enrolled in college until age 22. The benefits were successful in helping children enroll in college and complete an education without having to enter the workforce when they turned 18 to support themselves and their family. In 1983, when Social Security faced a real crisis (unlike the phony one portrayed today), Congress sacrificed the benefit in a compromise to save the long-term solvency of the program. Today’s circumstances are vastly different and merit the restoration of the benefit.

According to an excellent new policy brief by Alexander Hertel-Fernandez and the National Academy of Social Insurance, a number of factors make the student benefit even more important for children than it was in 1983. First, the imperative of a college education continues to grow in a knowledge economy: “college graduates earn, on average, 61 percent more over their lifetimes than do high school graduates.” While the value of a college education has risen, so has its cost (roughly double since 1979). At the same time, youth have even less access to financial aid than ever before. The value of a Pell Grant has barely increased in real dollars, leaving it inadequate to meet the needs of rising education costs. The results have been devastating for the children of deceased and disabled parents. A 2003 study found that more than a third of the children eligible for the pre-1983 benefit did not enroll in college because of the lost benefit.

The two principal reasons cited in 1983 for the benefit elimination — a Social Security shortfall and administration challenges — are much less relevant today. The Social Security actuary estimated it would cost .07 percent of taxable payroll to restore the benefit (measured over the traditional 75-year Social Security window). The actuary did not consider how much that cost would be offset from the higher earnings and increased payroll tax contribution of the additional college graduates (paging Stephen Goss). In 1983, the Social Security Administration had some difficulty verifying student enrollment and eligibility for the benefit. Today, electronic verification through the FAFSA application (a requirement for almost all schools) would make such concerns moot. Given the extensive benefits of the student benefit to society and vulnerable youth and its rather miniscule potential cost, restoring the student is a policy equivalent of a no-brainer.

PA Seniors4Kids with Governor Rendell

Seniors4Kids take their passion for kids to the top! Here's a recent photo of Yvonne Thompson-Friend, Pennsylvania Seniors4Kids State Coordinator (left), with Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell (center). Read more about the recent PA Seniors4Kids event, which successfully connected older adults with lawmakers, here. Congratulations, Yvonne, and thank you for your hard work!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Celebrate Children's Book Week with Intergenerational Books

Children’s Book Week is May 10-16. Generations United’s Seniors4Kids recommends 10 titles for young children that spotlight connections between young children and older adults.

Abuela by Arthur Dorros

An innovative fantasy narrated by a Hispanic-American child who imagines she's rising into the air over the park and flying away with her loving, rosy-cheeked abuela (grandmother). From the air, they see Manhattan streets, docks, an airport, tourist attractions, and Rosalba's father's office.

Bigmama’s by Donald Crews

Visiting Bigmama's house in the country, young Donald Crews finds his relatives full of news and the old place and its surroundings just the same as the year before.

The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster, illustrated by Chris Raschka

The young narrator visits her grandparents, Nanna and Poppy, in their big house. They explore Nanna's garden, and Poppy plays his harmonica. Looking out the picture window, the "hello, goodbye window," she spots her parents coming to pick her up. The curly-haired girl is happy to see them, but sad because it means the end of the visit.

Jingle Dancer, by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

Without enough tin jingles to make her dress sing, how can Jenna be a jingle dancer just like Grandma Wolfe at the next powwow? She borrows one row from Great-aunt Sis, whose aching legs keep her from dancing; another from Mrs. Scott, who sells fry bread; one from Cousin Elizabeth, whose work keeps her away from the festivities; and a fourth row from Grandma, who helps Jenna sew the jingles to her dress, assemble her regalia, and practice her bounce-steps.

Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco

It is the beginning of a long friendship between Mrs. Katz, widowed, childless, and lonely, and her young African-American neighbor, Larnel, when he presents her with a scraggly kitten. On his daily visit to the elderly woman and her pet, they talk about Mrs. Katz's husband, her arrival in the United States from Poland, and the similar experiences of Jews and African-Americans.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

As a child, Great-aunt Alice Rumphius resolved that when she grew up she would go to faraway places, live by the sea in her old age, and do something to make the world more beautiful--and she does all those things, the last being the most difficult of all.

Our Granny by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Julie Vivas

Two children compare their granny with others. Some grannies have thin legs, fat knees, crinkly eyes, or big soft laps. Their granny has a wobbly bottom and wears an old red sweater that was grandpa's. She has a style all her own—and to the children who love her, this granny is perfect.

The Raft by Jim Lamarche

Reluctuant Nicky spends a wonderful summer with Grandma who introduces him to the joy of rafting down the river near her home and watching the animals along the banks

Song and Dance Man by Stephen Gammell

In this Caldecott winner, Grandpa relives his vaudeville days for an adoring audience--his grandchildren.

Walk With Grandpa: Un Paseo con el Abuelo by Sharon Solomon

Ella and her grandfather find a peaceful walk in the woods leads to so much more. They express just how much they mean to each other by a simple word game they play together. Bilingual full text in both English and Spanish.

Synopses courtesy Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Celebrating Mother's Day at the White House

On Friday, First Lady Michelle Obama held an early celebration of Mother's Day by hosting a tea in the White House's East Room. Guests included former first ladies and daughters of former presidents, mothers and spouses of military personnel, and a remarkable young woman who has exemplified the importance of intergenerational service; Carrie Ryan.

Carrie is the 2009 recipient of Generations United’s Outstanding Youth Volunteer Award; an award which honors an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to an intergenerational program or has advocated for older adults and youth. While in high school, Carrie founded Bridging the Generations, an organization that connects high schools and retirement communities through service-learning projects. She then enrolled in an independent study course called “Images of Aging in Literature” which led her to further pursue her passion for intergenerational programs by connection her high school with a senior facility, Monte Vista Grove Homes, and creating a computer lab. Now a student at Sewanee University, Carrie is the head of the Senior Citizen’s Outreach Club. She has expanded the club’s outreach to five local retirement communities and has recruited many of her fellow college students to participate in visits to these older adult homes. Carrie continues to champion the mission of her organization and encourage the important connection between generations and their community.

The message of intergenerational appreciation was echoed several times by First Lady Michelle Obama at Friday’s event. The First Lady highlighted the message of President Carter’s 1979 Mother’s Day proclamation, in which he wrote: “In this time when the family is subjected to many new pressures, the job of nurturing future generations is often both more difficult and more important than ever.” Mrs. Obama went on to note the important contributions her own mother, Marian Robinson, has made to her life and her daughter’s lives—most notably the opportunity to have three generations living in the White House. The First Lady concluded by encouraging everyone in the room to share their stories and celebrate the extraordinary women in their lives. In honor of the women who shape our future generations, Happy Mother’s Day from Generations United!

-- Melissa Ness