Elders, awake and organize!

Submitted by administrator on Fri, 09/30/2011 - 21:41

Concerned about the mindless rush to destruction of the planet? Worried about the future for your children and grandchildren? Searching for a way to stop bullying?

Perhaps the answers are here, in a new book by Tina Rosenberg, "Join the Club." This book goes behind the scenes of several innovations fueled by people working together---people who managed to change the unchangeable!

Social and cultural norms and pressures have been seen as conserving the status quo. We all value the opinions of our peers, and flouting the rules of belief and conduct is risky--the loss of friends, needed support, and increased stress can be strong punishments. Can working with peers lead to change?

Tina reports on cases where people have worked together to create change: in social ranking, in education, in health care, in changing criminals to solid citizens, and even in overthrowing dictators. Grounded in personal experience and extensive research, Rosenberg details the strategies for change that have worked. While not a textbook, and certainly not a cookbook, this book should be read by anyone interested in change.

Can these lessons apply to improving the quality of life of elders in the US? Elders often feel isolated, helpless, intimidated, unable to improve their lives. However, if they band together, they may be able to change their outlook and improve their situation.

In elderly residential settings, a tenants' association (whatever the formal name) can be the catalyst for change. By working together against internal or external opponents, the group can make significant changes. Such a group can empower itself to stand up to management or to confront other tenants who use bullying and harassment. They can form a truth squad to defuse ugly rumors. Such a group will be able to achieve victories by sticking together and by persisting. They can work with professionals to create a more caring community. The individuals will be able to shed their feelings of isolation and helplessness.

As individuals begin to feel empowered, the association can take on challenges at the local, state, or national level. They can go after the City Council and the Mayor to demand safety for elders who must walk in the area--demanding cleared sidewalks in winter, and needed traffic signals. They can learn about healthcare policies and influence their representatives---petitions, postcards, emails, and demonstrations can all make an impact. And the result of participation is often a greater sense of being empowered.

It is imperative that elders at least make a serious effort to identify and work on common goals. Politicians seem to think that elders are disposable and can cut programs that are essential to elders, like social security, medicare, and medicaid. Politicians seem unable to deal with the future of our children and grandchildren, and fight about trivial matters instead of addressing survival issues like climate change. If we don't force them to be constructive, who will? And when?

Elders, awake and organize!

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