We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.
John W. Gardner
I went to the Resilient Communities Forum last Wednesday night, regarding local implications of climate change. There were probably 175 people in attendance. I have it on good authority that about 75 percent of them were over 50 years of age. Now that is a resilient community! (Most of us don’t associate the word “resilient” with older people, another example of internalized ageism.)
Kudos to Oak Park Mayor Abu-Taleb for hosting the recent community forum on aging at the public library. The forum featured thoughtful, passionate and invigorating statements, questions and discussion from the over 100 people in attendance. The Mayor committed to adding a Citizen’s Commission on Aging to the array of existing volunteer citizen boards and commissions in the village.
Kudos to the entire Oak Park Village Board of Trustees for including the formation of that Citizen’s Commission on Aging in their goal-setting session held one week after the Mayor’s forum. This will be a positive step in our efforts to consciously forge a community for all ages in Oak Park.
Various township representatives participated in the forum by making statements and answering specific questions, and it was apparent that we have a focused network of agencies delivering various services to our older citizenry.
It was also apparent that our community relationship with aging, indeed our cultural relationship with aging, is in dire need of some consciousness-raising.
There was precious little discussion of the widespread ageism that afflicts our community.
It was well into the second half of the forum before one woman commented that our older people are not just recipients of services but are also reservoirs of experience, energy and community involvement, if they are allowed to be — that the discussion is not just about subtraction but also about addition. This is a key attitude and element in any community for all ages.
Here are three ideas for community projects in 2018:
Let’s bring Dr. Bill Thomas’ ChangingAging Tour to our neighborhood next fall (www.changingaging.org). This could be a community-wide happening, involving olders and youngers, grassroots organizations, government, local philanthropies, academia, religious organizations, local businesses and everybody in-between.
A film-festival about aging in all populations, including people of color and the LGBTQ community.
A speakers series featuring Frank Ostaseski, Elizabeth White, Dr. BJ Miller, Ashton Applewhite, Kyrié Carpenter and others.
If you are interested in working on any of the above projects, please let me know.
I recently had a terrific get-acquainted chat with Cathaleen Roach, River Forest Township Senior Outreach coordinator. We talked big-picture as well as specific local activities, of which there are many. Here’s two upcoming at the River Forest Community Center:
Beginning Wednesday, February 7, for six sessions, Movement & Memory for Joyful Aging, 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Friday, February 16, Valentine’s Day Poetry From the Heart, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Marc Blesoff is a former Oak Park village trustee, co-founder of the Windmills softball organization, co-creator of Sunday Night Dinner, a retired criminal defense attorney, and a novice beekeeper. He currently facilitates Conscious Aging Workshops and Wise Aging Workshops in the Chicago area.