Occasionally we actually see media coverage of elder activists. I say occasionally, not because older adults so rarely act for the greater good, but because the topics the media seem to prefer are often much less flattering to older people.
Recently two amazing articles came to my attention—both share true stories of large groups of older adults attempting to shield younger generations from negative consequences.
In an article in The New York Times, “Elders Offer Help at Japan’s Crippled Reactor,” we learn about a retired Japanese engineer in his 70’s, who called on those over 60, with experience, to sign on to work at the nuclear reactor devastated by the 2011 earthquake. It is still leaking large amounts of radiation and endangering lives and the environment. “Their volunteering would spare younger Japanese from dangers that could leave them childless, or worse,” he states. Over 400 older adults have volunteered to work in this very dangerous situation.
Gray is Green is the National Senior Conservation Corps and on their website I found another illuminating article—this one by Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, a global grass roots movement to solve the climate crisis. In “Bringing Young and Old to the Climate Fight,” Mr. McKibben reminds us why young people have become leaders in the movement, “…if you’re 20 right now, with 60 or 70 years left on this earth, those chart lines of rising temperatures and rising sea levels will run over your life.”
However, at a mass protest in 2011 against the Keystone Pipeline, they asked older adults in particular to step up. This was to protect those younger from arrest records that could harm their ability to obtain future jobs. “Past a certain age…what the hell are they going do to you?” McKibben asks. Of the 1,253 people arrested—most were born when either Truman or Eisenhower was President. “Elders were beginning to act like elders, and taking real pride in it,” he added.
Next Steps in Challenging Ageism
I’ll keep it short and simple (for a change!). We need to notice what older adults are doing for their communities both locally, nationally, and internationally, and point it out to the children. Notice it, talk about it and write about it.
I have found just a few books for children that show us older adults working for the good of others, trying to make a difference in the world. But you can find several books on my resource list. Gabby and Grandma Go Green, Grandmama’s Pride and My Hippie Grandmother. Watch for my review next week of Kiki’s Hats–a great addition. Click on the titles for a book review.
Here is an easy thing we can all do for younger generations. Show them positive older role models—it will contribute to longer healthier lives for the kids. (Read “The Power of Our Beliefs.”)
Very soon I will begin submitting my manuscript for a children’s book to publishers. This one is about a grandmother and grandchild working together to save young trees from drought. (The kind of grandma I hope to be…) I spent last weekend polishing it at a three day writer’s retreat sponsored by the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Please wish me luck!
Speaking of trees, did you know that many young street trees don’t make it to maturity—when they really become “the lungs of the earth”–taking in CO2 and exhaling oxygen? (In the words of David Milarch of Archangel Ancient Tree Archive. A true elder activist.)
And in ending, courtesy of Gray is Green—
“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit”.
Ancient Greek proverb