Monday, March 28, 2011

Social Security Rally on Capitol Hill

This afternoon more than 300 supporters of Social Security turned out at an event on Capitol Hill to stand in support of this important intergenerational program. Among them, 14 year old Michael Owens gave his testimony about the impact Social Security has had in his life.

Michael and his Grandma Pat
Michael's grandparents raised him since the day he was born. When he was four, they became his legal guardians. Unfortunately, before he could be legally adopted by both of them, his grandpa passed away in 2006. But in 2008 his grandma carried through with the adoption and ever since then he’s been fortunate to receive Social Security. Even at the age of 14, Michael knows how important Social Security is for his family. “Social Security means a lot of things to me, especially since my grandpa died. It helps my grandma and me with the basic things, but also means I can do things that other children get to do, like participating in sports. My grandma takes very good care of me, but we could not survive without Social Security. “

Later in the event, five U.S. Senators announced their support for protecting Social Security for today’s recipients and future beneficiaries. For two of the Senators protecting Social Security is not just political, it’s personal.

Senator Tom Harkin
Growing up Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and his four siblings were raised by his father, Patrick, a coal miner and his mother, Frances. After years of working as a coal miner, Patrick Harkin was disabled by black lung disease and was unable to work. In 1950, Senator Harkin’s mother passed away. He was just ten years old. In 1951 Patrick Harkin qualified for Social Security and was able to raise his family with the benefits. “It if hadn’t have been for Social Security, I don’t know what would have happened to my family.  How would we have stayed together? It's the only income we had. It kept us together and in school.” remarked Senator Harkin. “I lived it and saw what it did for my family. The promise of Social Security is one that we must keep and one which we will continue to insist on for future generations.”

Sen. Al Franken with his wife Franni
Senator Al Franken (D-MN) also shared his personal stake in Social Security. At just 17-months-old, his wife, Franni, lost her father—a decorated veteran of WWII—in a car accident that left her mother widowed with five kids at the age of 29. “Sometimes they didn’t have enough food on the table; sometimes they’d turn off the heat,” Franken said. “They made it because of Pell Grants, scholarships, and Social Security survivor benefits. And my mother-in-law and every one of those five kids became a productive member of society.” Senator Franken discussed how the government has a duty to provide for those in need through Social Security. “It is important that we preserve Social Security and give our children and grandchildren the same fighting chance we all had growing up.”

All over the country, Social Security is making a difference in people’s lives. Social Security is more than a retirement program. It provides essential protections for people spanning all ages, from infants to retirees. In the upcoming weeks as the Senate votes on the Sanders/Reid Social Security Protection Amendment, Generations United urges Members of Congress to support this intergenerational program and protect the promise of Social Security for all generations.

For more information on how Social Security benefits all generations, check out our publications:
Social Security: What's at Stake for Children, Youth, and Grandfamilies
The Benefits of Social Security for Children
The Benefits of Social Security for Grandfamilies

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Our Friends in Japan

When a disaster hits, our thoughts and hearts go to those we know who may be touched directly. At Generations United, our thoughts went to our friends and colleagues who have join us over the years at our international conference. In 2005 we hosted a terrific delegation from Japan at our international conference who shared remarkable stories about their intergenerational work in various regions of the country. They impressed us with traditional dress at our awards dinner and their spirit. The next year I was invited, along with several other USA and international collaborators, by Drs Atsuko Kusano and Matt Kaplan to Japan to speak at the first conference held by the newly formed Japan Intergenerational Unity Network. We still have the beautiful paper lantern that has the JIUN and Generations United logos painted on the side that Dr. Mitsumune Tago gave us hanging in our lobby.

After thinking about them for days, today I heard back from Dr. Atsuko Kusano and then received word about our former staff member, Sachiko “Sachi” Taira, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Not to deny the situation is still unfolding, but grateful they, their families and many of the others we have met are okay.
While news has included coverage of older adults being cast aside during the terror that unfolded, there are also stories about those who helped others in need. As the days go on what we know from other horrific events is that younger will look to older for reassurance that recovery is possible. The longer perspectives that can help bring calm. Sachi’s words of wisdom reminded me of that.

“I am confident we Japanese are strong. Everybody has a SAMURAI spirit. I always think Japanese body is smaller than the other people. But our heart is very strong and big so that we can bear with anything. We can't tell how long it will take, but I am confident we can recover.”

Know that all of us at Generations United are rooting for you. We believe as the generations pull together, you will recover too.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Awards Season Isn’t Over Yet

Hollywood’s award season officially ended this past weekend with the Oscars. But at Generations United, we’re just getting started. This month, Generations United seeks nominations/submissions for outstanding individuals and organizations that make significant contributions towards rethinking and revitalizing intergenerational connections. Categories include: grandfamilies award, innovation award, leadership for outstanding support of intergenerational programs, outstanding older adult volunteer, outstanding youth volunteer, shared site award, and the Brabazon Award for Research Evaluation.

The Generations United 16th International Conference will take place this summer and one of my favorite events is the Awards Banquet. During the bi-annual gala we celebrate the unsung heroes and heroines who, through their hard work and dedication, make Generations United’s mission come to fruition in their communities. One recent recipient that stands out in my mind is Carrie Ryan. She received the Generations United Outstanding Youth Volunteer Award of 2009.

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. During the summer of 2008, Carrie worked at the computer lab to help the older adult residents become computer literate using lesson plans that she created herself. Throughout the summer, 52 Monte Vista Grove residents used the computer lab with 30 of them attending regularly.

Using her outstanding work as a model, Carrie’s high school alma mater went on to create a senior seminar course with the same name, “Images of Aging in Literature.” Following in her footsteps, other students went on to develop their own service-learning projects to help them further understand aging issues. Carrie now studies at Sewanee University, heading the Senior Citizen’s Outreach Club. She has expanded the club’s outreach to three local retirement communities and recruited many of her fellow college students to participate in visits to these older adult homes. Carrie now acts as an ambassador for intergenerational issues by speaking to audiences about the importance of connecting the generations.

Carrie Ryan is just one example of the amazing work being done by youth, older adults, and everyone in between to connect the generations. If you know someone, or are that person, who does great intergenerational work we hope you’ll consider nominating them.

For guidelines and the application form, visit here. Send submissions to the attention of Anne Tria Wise by email at or mail at 1331 H Street NW, Suite 900, Washington, D.C. 20005 by March 31, 2011. Generations United will notify recipients by May 15, 2011.