Monday, December 30, 2013

Let's Raise Our Grand Voices in Support of Children and Families

co-authored by Drs. Mary Catherine Bateson and Joan Lombardi

Nelson Mandela left his mark on his country and the world, dedicating his life to justice and equality.

We want to talk about a cause that Mandela championed: The Elders, an independent group of global leaders, chaired by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and whose members include, among others, former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson (Ireland) and Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico).

Six years after Mandela launched this group, with help from other leaders from South Africa and around the world, The Elders continue to promote the shared interests of humanity by working on issues ranging from climate justice to promoting equality between men and women to ending conflict in the Middle East to political reform and peace-building processes in Myanmar.

The Elders set up a strategic 2014-17 framework with the hope of establishing a just and inclusive global community for future generations, one free from fear and want.

read the full article at the Huffington Post

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Out of Many, One: Uniting the Changing Faces of America

by Donna Butts, co-authored with Hilary Pennington, director of the Generations Initiative & Vice President of the Ford Foundation.

Nelson Mandela was a great man who embodied the African concept of Ubuntu. Originally a Zulu term meaning unity, Ubuntu closely mirrors our country's powerful founding narrative: E Pluribus Unum, "out of many, one."

Today that narrative is in danger as the United States experiences a demographic transformation unlike any we've experienced before.

What are these demographic changes?

First we're living longer and healthier lives. By 2043, one in five U.S. residents will be age 65 or older. If embraced, this increase in human capital asset could have tremendous value to our communities. Think about Mandela's accomplishments in later life. He was in his mid-70's when he was president of South Africa and 89 when he co-founded The Elders, a group of statesmen on a mission to tackle the world's toughest problems.

read the full article at the Huffington Post

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Universal Children’s Day – No Age Limit on Making a Difference

For her ninth birthday, Rachel Beckwith asked her family for donations to help bring clean water to people in poor countries. She died in a car crash before she could see her $300 goal exceeded a thousand times over.
Ryleigh Kastra and Joshua Williams fed needy people in their communities. Rachel Beckwith brought clean water to African villagers. These young people, all of whom Youth Service America (YSA) recognized as Everyday Young Heroes, weren’t in their teens when they decided to make a difference…they were children.

Yesterday was Universal Children’s Day, which the United Nations and its member countries observed for two reasons: 1) promote mutual exchange and understanding among children and 2) to promote the welfare of the world's children.

Of the former, these young people weren’t waiting on anyone to take action. They did it, themselves – like Rachel Beckwith of Seattle, Washington. On her ninth birthday, Beckwith asked her family for donations to Charity: water. She set up a website with the nonprofit, hoping to meet her $300 goal (she only reached $220 by her birthday).

Ryleigh Kastra from Charlottesville, Virginia, was just as ready to affect change when she joined a national food drive initiative started by another Everyday Young Hero. Kastra was 8 years old when she created flyers, asking for canned goods donations. She distributed nearly 400 of her flyers. She collected 700 pounds of food to deliver on her first trip to Neighbors-4-Neighbors.

(PHOTO: Lance Cheung) The White House recognized 11-year-old Joshua Williams, of Miami, last year as a “Champion of Change” for strengthening food security in the United States and around the world.
Joshua Williams, of Miami, Florida, and his family were on their way to feed the homeless when officials told them it was against public health laws to distribute food without a permit.

He was initially inspired by what he saw on TV. “I was watching Feed The Children, and I felt sad for the children,” Williams said in the Sodexo Foundation’s video, which included interviews with Williams’s aunt KerryAnne McLean and his friend Alexander Bailey. Of Feed the Children, Williams added, “I wanted to do [something similar] in Florida.”

That’s when his mom, aunt and a consultant helped him start his own foundation, Joshua’s Heart, when he was 5 years old. “It was amazing because his friends and other family members -- everyone -- was excited to help…and put a smile on someone else’s face,” McLean said.

The Foundation has since raised over 400,000 pounds of food to needy families in South Florida, while teaching some recipients how to prepare healthier meals. “We have volunteers and elves,” Williams said. “Volunteers are adults, and the elves are children. They’re my friends, or friends of my friends.”

An elf admired Williams’s selflessness. “I think Joshua has a very big heart,” Bailey said. “I would say that he's a very thankful person and he's very helpful.”

Universal Children’s Day is an opportunity to be as helpful in promoting the welfare of the world’s children. Two years ago, Generations United teamed up with the MetLife Foundation to help the Ryleighs, the Joshuas and the Rachels out there, looking to put their entrepreneurial spirits to work.

Through our youth-led jump-start grants, young people developed volunteer projects working with, or on behalf of, older adults. I remember what a teenager, who took part in our project, once reported. “One thing I learned through this project is to respect your community and your history,” he said.

“For all of the retired teachers we worked with, most had lived here for a while, and even though they are done working and could leave if they wanted to, they did not. I learned through their stories that your community has a way of shaping you and your history, and that your community never leaves you.”

Generations United promoted the welfare of the world’s children by stating our support for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan that devastated the Philippines two weeks ago – leaving thousands, who lost everything, struggling to survive without food or medical care. We used our weekly e-newsletter, Generations This Week, to direct support to HelpAge USA and Save the Children.

At our Signature Report event next month, we’ll tackle the zero-sum framework (funding programs like Social Security and Medicare for Americans over 65 vs. addressing college debt and youth unemployment), which sets up a false conflict between our older and younger generations.

As we celebrate Universal Children’s Day, let’s nurture our children’s potential and show them there’s no age limit on affecting change.

A Kinder, Gentler World for Our Veterans

Editor's note: This blog post was first published on the Huffington Post and featured in Huff/Post50. 
Over four decades ago, Led Zeppelin first sang, "...a new day will dawn for those who stand long,/and the forest will echo with laughter." While the true meaning of the lyrics can be debated, what does ring true is the way in which our troops are now welcomed home and thanked for "standing long" to protect our freedoms.

Veteran's Day is when we offer our thanks and gratitude to our nation's vets through wreath laying ceremonies, parades and military exhibits. It's "a new day" for returned soldiers and former military, who are enjoying a shift in the national mood that went from vilifying Vietnam and ignoring those who served to fully embracing this commemorative day.

Nowhere is this shift seen more than in intergenerational programs across the country and abroad that serve as lifelines for military families and engage older vets as mentors. Among those who offer programs that connect older adults, children and youth is The New Hampshire Veterans Home (NHVH), which has weekly activities that mix their older residents with middle and high school students in activities including playing board and trivia games based on U.S. and world history, farming and discussing career goals.

The multicultural and international population at Tilton, one of seven schools the NHVH collaborates with, helps both students and residents learn about each other's cultures, while learning they're more alike than they thought.

Exchanges like these are a win-win-win. They're a win for young people who get extra attention, guidance and support. They're a win for older vets who enjoy a greater sense of purpose. They're a win for communities empowered by collaboration, pooling resources and engaging in cooperative problem solving.

Those community services make shared sites -- facilities where children, youth and older adults receive services -- like Easter Seals' Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Inter-Generational Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, invaluable. Through their Little Warrior Program, the center provides free childcare for children of wounded soldiers. These young people, whose parents saw trauma first-hand, can inherit what Dr. Anita Brown called intergenerational post-traumatic stress distorder (iptsd).

The research suggests that anger, anxiety and heightened sense of vulnerability are some symptoms that children of wounded soldiers are likely to experience, according to Brown, a clinical psychologist at the Defense Centers of Excellence.

Easter Seals helps offset these signs early by caring for young people from six weeks to 13 years old. Older adults play a vital role in the program reassuring, comforting and caring about the young ones during these important developmental years. The parents say the children respond well to the extra support and caring they receive from their intergenerational friends.

There's something else that comes from these cross generation bonds, according to the late cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: "If you associate enough with older people who do enjoy their lives, who are not stored away in any golden ghettos, you will gain a sense of continuity and of the possibility for a full life."

Earlier this year, World War II veterans, residents of Chester County, Pennsylvania's Lakeside Assisted Living, impacted the lives of students at a local elementary school. During the veteran's visit, the benefits were two-fold: students got additional context on the war they read about in school books, while veterans felt valued as they shared their personal histories with a future generation.

At the Southwestern Veterans Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the vets did the active listening. During the center's Intergenerational Reading Program, students from Transfiguration School shared their stories in either one-on-one or small group settings. The program's goal, like other shared sites, is to enhance all participants' quality of life by improving attitudes toward elders and share life experiences.

The Memory Project in Canada takes the intergenerational endeavor to another level. Through an educational partnership between Historica Canada and the Ontario Seniors' Secretariat, The Memory Project brings the Veterans of World War II, the Korean War and peacekeeping missions into school classrooms and over the Internet.

Veterans Day provides the perfect opportunity to renew our national promise and stand long for our vets who deserve our respect and a new day, who make it possible -- as Led Zeppelin sings it -- for our forest, and future generations, to "echo with laughter."

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Marian Wright Edelman Fires Up Intergenerational Warriors

(PHOTO: Alan King)

Marian Wright Edelman's pep talk earlier this week came from a different place. It wasn't the usual eloquent oration of a gifted speaker whose decades of fighting for disadvantaged Americans earned her the status of civil rights legend.

Instead, she delivered her appeal as a grandmother. "I love my grandchildren," she told a packed room Oct. 28 at the Gray Panthers' National Convention in D.C. "They have re-radicalized me all over again."

Edelman’s initial spark came from the racial injustice she saw as a lawyer with the Mississippi office of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She tackled segregation laws, represented activists during the 1964 Freedom Summer, and helped setup a Head Start Program. In 1973, she founded the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), an advocacy and research center for youth issues.

The CDF is also a co-founder of Generations United, a national advocacy group whose intergenerational strategies improves the lives of children, youth, and older people.

Evoking the inspiration her granddaughters gave her, Edelman re-radicalized the Gray Panthers, an intergenerational advocacy organization. She charged them to be "pit bulls up there on the hill" for young people disadvantaged by poor educational systems ("We want universal preschool through K,” Edelman said, “it shouldn't stop at kindergarten") and gun violence ("a violent crime occurs every 26 seconds," according to the FBI’s 2012 crime data).

Though we weren’t mentioned by name, Generations United was present in Edelman’s address, especially when she urged the older adults to advocate for children and youth. “We’ve got to make a raucous,” she said, “but it’s got be a continuous raucous.”

Through our Seniors4Kids program, older adults make a continuous raucous in support of early childhood development whether they’re in Colorado, Kentucky, Nebraska or New Jersey, to name a few.

“What does early education have to do with older adults?” Drs. Joan Lombardi and Mary Catherine Bateson asked in their May 14 Huffington Post Op/Ed, “United Across the Generations to Assure a Strong Start for Children.”

“The well-being of our nation's children and our own grandchildren will have a huge impact on our quality of living,” according to Lombardi and Bateson. “If our children emerge from our education system ill-prepared for the work world, we will suffer along with them, because we will be dependent upon them.”

Edelman echoed that sentiment at the Gray Panthers’ National Convention. "You are the indispensable," she told the grandparents – some of whom mentored troubled teens and young mothers through the foster grandparents program.

"You're the most talented and educated generation of grandparents and advocates," Edelman continued before expressing her admiration for grandfamilies, or multigenerational households headed by grandparent caregivers. There are now 2.7 million grandparents in the U.S. who have sole responsibility of the children living with them, according to Generations United’s data.

Edelman joked about her experiences as a grandmother. “I love my grandchildren, but I sure am happy when they go home,” she told a laughing crowd. “They wear you out.”

But Edelman doesn’t take the social enrichment her grandchildren give her for granted. “I have three great sons,” she said, “but when I had my first two granddaughters, I didn’t know how lonely I’d been all of those years.”

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

What does the Sequester mean for Children, Families and Older Adults?

Last Friday night, after Congress failed to come to agreement on how to avoid across-the-board cuts known as “sequestration,” President Obama signed an order which will put into motion a series of cuts affecting children, youth and older adults. The impact will be particularly evident for those who live in low-income households.

How big are the cuts?

Programs that are not explicitly protected from the sequester will be subject to five percent cuts. However, they will feel deeper (closer to nine percent) since they will now be implemented over a period of just seven months remaining in the fiscal year.

How will this affect children, families, and older adults?

The Administration is starting to share guidance with states and local groups about how they must implement the cuts. Many specifics of the impact are still unknown. Here is what we can expect:

• $18 million will be cut from Section 202 housing for older adults

• $333 million from WIC (affecting as many as 600,000 women and children)

• $115 million from the Child Care and Development Block Grant

• $117 million from the Social Services Block Grant (flexible funding for services to children, older adults and people with disabilities including child and older adult protective services)

• $86 million from Older Americans Act programs, such as senior nutrition and community service employment

• $22 million in Early Intervention Services

• $12.6 million from the National Family Caregiver Support Program affecting 700,000 family caregivers including grandparents and older relatives raising children.
• 2% cut in Medicare reimbursement for skilled nursing and home health care providers

• Substantial cuts to Head Start and Early Head Start affecting an estimated 70,000 children this fall

• $175 million for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance

Note: Some numbers may appear different from previous estimates because they are being implemented over a shorter time frame.

Can Congress stop the cuts now that they have begun?

It is unlikely that Congress will stop the $85 billion in cuts now. The President and Congress will likely negotiate a continuing resolution to keep the government going the rest of the year without rolling back the cuts. Congress could work with the President to negotiate more thoughtful prioritization of the cuts.

What can I do?

Advocates for children, families and older adults should continue to talk to their members of Congress to communicate the importance of these supports across the generations. They should also emphasize the adverse impact such arbitrary across-the-board cuts will have. Hanging in the balance is our children’s future, our capacity to meet the needs of a growing aging population, and our ability to tap the skills of our younger and older generations to improve our communities and economy.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Generations United Responds to the State of the Union Address

(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

"...this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others…"

Generations United applauds the President for his bold words in his State of the Union Address. This recognition of the social compact highlights how intergenerational cooperation, understanding, protection, and support underpin our country’s strength and its future.

In addressing the country's economic challenges he rightly recognized that America needs investments in all ages to drive our economy and modest reforms that strengthen and protect generations rather than drastic cuts to critical supports to our youngest and oldest members.

Investing in Education and Training

To boost our economy, the President called for policies to equip citizens with the education, skills and training they need to compete successfully in the global economy. That preparation, he said, “has to start at the earliest possible age.” We applaud the President’s proposal to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. As the President explained, “Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road." Generations United supports these investments in young children, which reap benefits for every generation. By preparing a strong workforce for our future, we provide the fuel for a strong economy and stronger communities. As the President noted, “Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.”

Strengthening the Economy and Reducing the Debt

In speaking to need to address long-term debt, the President rightly identified the rising cost of health care as the biggest driver of national debt. He acknowledged the need for modest reforms to Medicare, explaining, “…otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.” Generations United affirms the need to make modest adjustments to programs to ensure we can continue to invest in our children, while keeping our promises to our older citizens. Any changes we make we must do in the spirit of strengthening supports for our children and older adults. They must recognize that Social Security has not and will not contribute to the deficit. Needed modest reforms should take place outside of the deficit discussion and should focus on strengthening Social Security for all generations. For example restoring the student benefit would help ensure child survivors receive the continued support they need to pursue higher education.

Supporting a Strong, Diverse Workforce

In discussing the strength of our nation’s workforce, the President touched on the enduring contributions of those immigrating to our country. While fewer than 20 percent of people over the age of 65 are of color, 50 percent of those under the age of five are of color. As a result of immigration and a host of factors, our demographics are changing rapidly. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to promote policies that invest in our diverse younger populations and build bridges across generations. That way, we can prevent divides along both age and race. Generation United affirms the presidents' recognition that “Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants.”

Protecting and Supporting the Bookend Generations

Highlighting the stories of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton and 102-year-old Desiline Victor, the President sent a strong signal to our nation that we must protect and support our youngest and oldest populations – our bookend generations.

President Obama called for bipartisan action on reducing gun violence, to prevent more tragedies like the shooting that claimed the life of Hadiya Pendleton, a bright and determined15-year-old who was felled by a bullet as she sat in a park. Generations United affirms that our government and our citizens must support policies and actions to ensure people feel safe wherever they are: at home, at school, in the movie theater, at a mall, or in a park.

The President also called on us to follow the example of Desiline Victor. When the 102-year-old arrived to cast her ballot in the November election, she was told she would need to wait in line up to six hours to vote. She was undeterred because she held sacred her obligation as a citizen to vote. Inspired by her determination, a throng of people supported her…and, in the end, got to put on a sticker that read, “I voted.” Generations United affirms that generations of all ages have much to teach each other and that our policies must ensure people of all ages are supported in making their voices heard.

Over and over again in his remarks, the President pointed to the critical interdependence of generations. The President is absolutely right: Our reliance on each other matters. Because we are stronger together.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Grand Action, Not Just Chatter

Every generation has a valuable role to play in addressing youth isolation, bolstering conflict resolution, and helping young people build resilience.

Do you think people of all ages should urge their policymakers to take reasonable actions that ensure children have safe learning environment where they can learn and thrive?

If so, add your thoughts to our Huffington Post op-ed “Grand Action, Not Just Chatter” published by Generations United's Donna Butts and our Seniors4Kids National Co-Chairs Drs. Mary Catherine Bateson and Joan Lombardi.