Friday, July 27, 2012

Book End Olympic Blog: Inspiring Generations

-PhotoCredit-SunDesigns The opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games is just hours away. It’s safe to say that Generations United has a case of Olympic Fever. 

In our latest bookend blog installment, take a sprint down Olympic memory lane with Seniors4Kids Special Advisor Thomas Taylor and Annie Clearly, a National Academy of Social Insurance summer intern for Generations United and a student at Miami University of Ohio.

In the comments, we encourage you to share your own memories. We would also love to hear your ideas for celebrating or enjoying the Games intergenerationally.

London 2012’s Olympic tagline is “Inspire a Generation.” Earlier this week, Generations United announced our new campaign to Do Something Grand for Grandparents Day 2012.

Using Grandparents Day (September 9) as a call to action, we are planning a full week (September 8-15) of intergenerational activism. Make sure to visit for tools, tips, and resources that will help you inspire generations.

From Tom:

In 1948, the last time the Olympics were held in London, I was 22 years old. My heroes at these games were two competitors in track and field, my favorite Olympic sport. Alice Coachman competed in the high jump. She was the first Black woman to win an Olympic medal, the first American woman to win a gold medal in track and field, and the only one to win at the 1948 games. Mal Whitfield won medals in the 800 meters and 4x4 relay. The 4x4 is a four man/woman race for four hundred meter. It’s very fast and requires great physical endurance for such a long distance.

In high school, I was on the track team. At the time, my hero was Jesse Owens. Jesse competed in the 1936 Berlin Games, won four gold medals (three in track and one in the long jump). Adolph Hitler boasted about the superiority of the Aryan Nation and German athletes participated in all sports. Hitler was angry at Jesse’s accomplishments and refused to offer him congratulations. My Brother-In –Law, Ben Johnson, ran with Jesse. He often spoke about the fine person Jesse was and how pleased he was to beat a German in Germany during the hateful days of the Nazi regime.

The 1984 Olympics was held in Los Angeles which I had the pleasure to attend. The excitement is unreal and the pageantry of the opening and closing sessions are a wonder to behold. I was able to see a number of my favorites and always will remember the grace and power of an athlete racing to the finish line leaning forward to be the first to break the tape.

From Annie:

In the summer of 2004, Michael Phelps wowed the world in Athens with six Olympic medals in swimming (one Olympics before his record-shattering eight medals in Beijing.) That fall, I returned to middle school sporting braces and wielding a poster for my locker of Phelps swimming butterfly. As an avid swimmer throughout childhood and high school, the Summer Olympics has always been a must-see for me.

My first Olympic memories were well before my Phelps phase, back in 1998 at the Nagano Winter Olympics. Michelle Kwan, the great figure skater, was my idol. I remember asking my dad to scrape snow off the frozen pond across the street from our home. I stumbled around on my skates, barely able to do a figure eight, let alone land a triple lutz. The Olympics were inspiring to me even then.

As the world prepares for the Olympics in London, I look back at past games with fondness. The Olympics are a spectacle like no other, connecting nations through the spirit of competition as well as camaraderie.  As excited as I am to see Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte duke it out in the pool, I am just as eager to watch international athletes represent their countries. Let the games begin.

Photo courtesy of sundesigns

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Going the Distance: The Importance of Grandparents in Children’s Lives

Sometimes it’s hard to keep kids and their grandparents in touch.  But it’s worth it.

Tina Marquis

When distance separates kids from their grandparents

It was a great idea at the time. Tired of the crowded streets of Manhattan where my husband grew up, we opted to move out of New York. We also decided against my native Los Angeles, with its own traffic issues. So we chose Colorado, an in-between place with enough urban and outdoor life to satisfy us both. Of course, we didn’t have any kids, nor did we have many friends with kids, who might have suggested to us that we might want family close by when we had children. So when our two angels finally did come along, we wished we had a set of grandparents or two next door, and we were saddened that our kids would have less interaction with their grandparents. 

Grandparents do make a difference

My husband and I have no interest in moving. But we both agree that we wouldn’t be the same people if it weren’t for our relationships with our grandparents. My grandmother was a major figure in my life, even though she lived in a different state. During my visits with her as a kid, we would do a lot of ‘typical’ grandmother/granddaughter activities, like baking cakes or playing with dolls. But I especially loved hearing about her life growing up. She and her sister, my great-aunt, told me how they used to dress, including how they wore real silk stockings, buying a new pair each week and wearing them every day. And little stories about how they used margarine that came in a bag when butter was limited during World War II were fascinating to me. As I became older, she reminisced about how dating worked when she was young, and wished I was able to go to a dance hall and just mingle, rather than committing to relationships while still a teenager. 

Bridging the distance between kids and their grandparents

Building a strong relationship between my kids and their grandparents takes a lot of effort, but my instinct tells me it’s worth it. In the first two years of my older daughter’s life, we made 14 trips by plane and car to visit grandparents, and great-grandparents, on both coasts. We have not yet experienced a moment when my children were shy or reticent with either set of grandparents. Now, both kids are in elementary school, and are just as eager to see their grandparents whenever they can, or at least talk on the phone. Also, the girls love to keep up with them using some of the new technologies available to kids.

How kids benefit from the unique relationship with their grandparents

There is interesting research about the beneficial role grandparents play in a child’s life. Relationships with people from different generations appear to have positive effects on kids, including building empathy and self-esteem. I personally notice how interacting with older people helps my kids communicate better, as well as learn respect and patience. And it makes sense that an extra person or two in a child’s life willing to give ‘unconditional love’ is a wonderful thing for a child to experience. 

In addition, our kids realize they are part of a larger story - the history of our family. They understand their unique role, and enjoy discovering where they fit in this evolving narrative. And grandparents continue to build their own legacy by educating their grandkids of their history, their challenges, and their joy. From books, I know there were shortages of butter in WWII, but I had no idea that margarine came in a plastic bag that you kneaded before using. 

Younger generations can use their grandparents’ experiences to make better choices in their lives, and handle difficult situations. It helps to know people that have successfully navigated bumpy roads before them. As parents, we are committed to encouraging and strengthening the relationship between kids and grandparents. Our busy schedules and distance can make it a challenge, but our kids, and our parents, benefit deeply from this unique bond.

How have you nurtured this relationship between kids and grandparents? What benefits have you seen? Let us know!

by Tina Marquis

About the Author

Tina Marquis is the Vice President of Marketing for DoubleScoop, a startup that creates technology to bring kids and grandparents together. Her goal is to create fun and exciting ways to bridge the generation gap through technology. She lives in Colorado with her two girls and husband, and enjoys traveling to both coasts to visit grandparents. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Our Thoughts and Sympathies with Aurora, CO

As our thoughts lie with the victims and families affected by Friday’s shooting in Aurora, Colorado, we share this message of hope from the Colorado Children’s Campaign . Generations United recently expanded Seniors4Kids into Colorado. We are honored to work with such a compassionate and committed partner.

“Look for the helpers”

“When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.”— Fred Rogers
We’re sending thoughts of courage and peace to the victims and their families involved in the Aurora shooting, and we’re grateful to all the helpers in the community coming together to assist them. If you are affected or would like to help, you can learn about resources from the Children's Hospital Colorado in this week's KidsFlash:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Welcome Hayling!

We are very excited to announce that Hayling Price, Policy Director of the National Human Services Assembly and National Collaboration for Youth has accepted the  role of Co-Chair of Generations United’s Public Policy Committee. This Committee helps the Generations United policy team to set our Public Policy Agenda, and provides invaluable guidance and support as we advocate for intergenerational policies.

Hayling will join fellow Co-Chair Amy Gotwals, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging in leading the Committee. Hayling takes over for Easter Seals Assistant Vice President of Government Relations, Jennifer Dexter as she rotates out of her leadership role on the Committee.

As Co-Chair, Jennifer was a champion of intergenerational policies and understood the importance of uniting Americans across generations.  We’re thrilled that Jennifer will continue as a member of the Committee sharing her wisdom and insight.

Thank you Hayling, Amy, and Jennifer for your leadership and commitment to Generations United!

Photo: Courtesy of Donna Butts. From Left to Right: Amy Gotwals, Jennifer Dexter, Hayling Price, and Donna Butts.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Social Security Stories: Senator Al Franken


As a freshman in college, Senator Al Franken met his future wife Franni Bryson at a mixer. They hit it off immediately and talked for hours. Not long after, she told him the story of her upbringing. At just 17-months-old, Franni lost her father – a decorated veteran of WWII – in a car accident that left her mother widowed with five kids.

“Sometimes they didn’t have enough food on the table; sometimes they’d turn off the heat,” Franken says. “They made it because of Pell grants and Social Security survivor benefits. And my mother-in-law and every one of those five kids became a productive member of society.”[1]

Franni’s story left an indelible mark on her husband and confirmed his belief in Social Security. In his book The Truth (with Jokes), Franken wrote about how Franni’s mom used Social Security to keep her family together.


“As soon as Bootsie (the youngest) started school, Franni’s mom got a job working odd hours in the produce department at a nearby supermarket. Her paycheck, a very small veterans’ widows’ benefit, and survivors benefits from Social Security weren’t always enough to keep the heat on during the Maine winters, or the telephone or the lights for that matter, but they did put food on the table. (Though a terrific cook, my mother-in-law sometimes had to serve fried dough to feed her family). Neil went into the Coast Guard, and all the girls went to college. If it hadn’t been for Social Security, I never would have met Franni in Boston my freshman year…”[2]

Franken strongly believes that the government has a duty to provide for those in need through Social Security.

“Social Security provides a safety net for families torn apart by unspeakable tragedy and for those unable to earn a regular paycheck,” says Franken. “It is vitally important that we preserve Social Security and give our children and grandchildren the same fighting chance we all had growing up.”

[1] Levy, Ariel. “Don’t Laugh; During the Bush years, satire was one of the Democrats’ most potent weapons. But Al Franken’s earnest – sometimes tearful – campaign for senator raises the question: Can politics and comedy co-exist?” New York Magazine (November 12, 2007)

[2] Franken, Al “The Truth (with Jokes)” Penguin Books (October, 2005)

Friday, July 06, 2012

Social Security Stories: Mary Thompson

imageAlthough she has never married or had children of her own, Mary Thompson knew that she wanted to care for her two young nieces after her sister died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm in 2004. “I knew I wanted to raise Brianna and Brandy. But I really did have a fear of how I was going to do it financially as a single person,” she said.

Initially, providing care for two children unexpectedly strained Mary’s budget. Her salary as a human resources assistant at a bank only allowed her to comfortably meet the needs of a single person. Suddenly, she needed to make it work for three.

“What I was making was not enough to handle food and clothes for the girls let alone if they would want to go to a movie or out to eat with their friends,” she said. “I was concerned. I didn’t know how I could make ends meet. My paycheck took care of house bills and whatever I needed personally, and that was about it.”


But about a year after her sister’s death, Thompson got some relief when she learned that her young nieces qualified for survivor benefits from Social Security.

“Someone told me about survivor benefits for the girls,” Mary said. “I didn’t know they were available, and once I started receiving the support, it really made a huge difference.”

Currently, Brandi is 15 and a freshman in high school. Her older sister Brianna is 19, and a student at Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina, studying secondary education.

Mary still counts on Social Security to meet her bills. “If I lost that, I’d have to find another way. It could come down to having to move,” she added, “which would mean disrupting Brandi’s life even more, putting her into a new school and taking her away from her friends.”

Regardless of her struggles, Mary always knew stepping in to raise her sister’s kids was the right thing to do for her and the children.

“I knew right away I didn’t want the girls split apart,” she said. “And it’s great being a parent. I ask the girls all the time, ‘do you know how much I love you? Do you know how important you are to me?’ And the smile and say, ’yes, auntie, you tell us all the time!’” It never fails to make me smile.”

Mary is very thankful for how Social Security helped her family to smile again and hopes the security it currently provides will remain available for families in the future.