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Lumping Us All Together

“Older Adults” Are Not a Monolithic Group

By Trena Winans, Education & Community Outreach Director

Here at Senior Services, our primary purpose is to serve “older adults” age 60 and better. In reality, that is a huge age range with a tremendous amount of variation in experience, needs and interests. How much do you think the average 60-year-old has in common with a 95-year-old and vice versa? Nevertheless, we see all these folks getting lumped together into an even larger group with everyone 50 plus—meaning a greater than 50 year Lumping Togetherdifference between the youngest and oldest of the “older adults.”

You can see ramifications all the time. Surveys break age groups into nice 15-20 year bunches except at the top of the age range. How many times
have you had to check the box for 65+? That being so, it means that most data collection fails to make distinctions in a group with a 40 year difference between them even though we know, on an intuitive level, that the needs and interests are likely to be vastly different.

There are two generations in this group. The “Greatest Generation” and the “Baby Boomers” now coexist as “older adults” but each generation typically has some distinct qualities. This is not to say that they are all the same either. Some 95-year-olds are in better physical and mental health than some 50-year-olds but will tend to travel in different social circles. Most people don’t hang out with people their children’s age or their parents’ age. Humans tend to gravitate to others with similar experiences and backgrounds, and so the monolith of aging doesn’t always make sense.

At Senior Services, this broad span of people creates both challenges and opportunities. What we are hearing from a small but growing number of people is that we are doing a good job serving elders at the upper spectrum of the age range. You need only look around at most of our Activity and Dining Centers or at the populations most served by adult day services, care coordination, home care, transportation and more to see that this appears to be true. We are proud of this! It is important and beneficial that we should serve this group.

At the same time, we are increasingly hearing from those in the younger spectrum of aging, that nowhere, at our agency or others, do they really find anything aimed at them. For those still employed, daytime weekday hours are not feasible. For those who left the workforce perhaps to care for a spouse who has since passed, where can they now find people similar to themselves?

While some of our programs have reached across the age divide—volunteer opportunities, Zumba classes, Tuesdays with TED, Lunchtime Learners, caregiver programs, etc.—there truly is nothing currently offered squarely at just this group. Herein lies an opportunity. If you are interested in helping brainstorm and form a group to plan events and classes for people ages 50-70, let us know at 989-633-3700 or TWinans@mccoa.org. Let’s work together to create some new opportunities!