|Dream Bigger, Create Legacy
YOU 177 is a social innovation journey from dreams to legacy, from aspirations to action. It's about moving toward a bigger way of thinking and acting for all generations in a 7-Generation World. And elders can lead the way.
Too many elders are isolated and marginalized in our society, and too often we fail to tap into the tremendous social capital they can offer.
A sense of belonging and purpose is a basic human right. With the historic global demographic shift to an older population, YOU 177 empowers elders of all ages and abilities – 1 World with 7 Billion People across 7 Generations.
The photograph above is from the Legacy Center arboretum. Ecologists tell us that a young tree grows better when it's planted in an area with older trees. The roots of the young tree are able to follow the pathways created by older trees and implant themselves more deeply. Over time, the roots of many trees may actually graft themselves to each other, creating an intricate, interdependent foundation hidden under the ground. The whole forest becomes healthier, stronger, better.
More Elders Than Ever Before
Worldwide, for the first time in history, and probably for the rest of human history, people 65 years and older outnumber children. By 2030, 1 in every 5 Americans (and by 2036, 1 in 4 Canadians) will be over 65 years of age.
We need effective strategies to meet the needs of an older population, including health, housing, mobility, and social supports. The World Health Organization has outlined an Age-Friendly framework. We propose age-friendly – PLUS.
An increasingly older population brings both challenges and opportunities for individuals, organizations, and communities. We believe the opportunities far outweigh the challenges. The difference and the power of YOU 177 is in the "plus," a cross-issue, big-picture timeframe: lifetimes across generations.
The demographic shift can be a doorway into a myriad of transformative opportunities for all generations and for entire communities. We can create better, stronger communities. We can strategically meet the needs of elders AND be strategic in utilizing the tremendous and transformational social capital of elders (wisdom, skills, experience) to the benefit of all.
YOU 177 meets physical needs in a broader, more empowering psychosocial context. It helps you rethink the way we divide up our society based on age, enriches the way we view and experience aging, supports health in older adulthood, celebrates lifelong learning and contribution, and brings more meaning and purpose to the experience of growing older.
The Power of Legacy
This isn't about leaving a legacy; it's about living a legacy. 70% of older adults say they want to create a positive legacy. What if… we meaningfully connect the young and the old – particularly the far ends of the age spectrum which are often the most vulnerable, least powerful, most marginalized – in strategic action to transform their own lives and the world? The YOU in YOU 177 not only stands for the power you have as an individual to make a difference regardless of your age, but also stands for Young and Old United.
Research tells us that social isolation of elders can result in more health issues and a 50% higher mortality. When elders are vitally connected with the young, this can shift dramatically. We know frail elders and those with dementia are particularly isolated, as are their caregivers. What if we shift the way we see these elders – not as dependents but as teachers, not as being "at the end of the line" of a lifetime but as being part of the bigger circle of life?
Based on a decade of research in the social and natural sciences, YOU 177 takes a systems approach that draws on life course and aging, intergenerational relationships, health, lifelong learning, community building, systems design, economics, and environmental studies. YOU 177 integrates the important work of people like Marc Freedman, Erik Erikson, Mary Catherine Bateson, John Kotre, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Harry R. Moody, David Snowdon, Bill Thomas, The Intergenerational School, and The Intergenerational Center at Temple University.
YOU 177 is helping to give real elders a real role in society. As we explore a much longer lifetime, we have to be careful not to split old age into two polarized images – the "ill-derly" versus the "healthy, wealthy, and wise." This feeds both a false pessimism and a superficial optimism. To create genuinely satisfying, realistic images of older adulthood, we have to understand its complexities. As we create new life maps, there are no prescribed role models to follow, no guideposts, no rigid rules or obvious rewards. "Aging" is much more than a problem to be solved. It's about our vision of what it means to live a life.
This is Nadia. She's been alive for 86 years (yes, it's a current photo!), and is living vibrantly with advanced dementia. She's also Legacy Project Founder Susan V. Bosak's mother, and helped inspire YOU 177. Nadia is Susan's Time Teacher. She once told Susan that it can be hard growing older – sometimes your body won't move the way you want it to, your brain doesn't respond the way you want it to, you lose people you've known and cared about for years. And the very hardest part, according to Nadia? When people treat you "like a child – like you don't matter anymore in the world." Everyone, even older adults with physical and cognitive limitations, matters. Nadia is showing us the way. It's up – to the stars. Nadia has loved the stars since she was little because, she says, "They make me feel big." Nadia is ready to dream bigger. Are you?
We need to feel as though we are moving toward something worthwhile – not necessarily easy, not straightforward, but worthwhile. We need meaning and hope, both individually and as a society.
Discover Your Pathway
Find out more about the YOU 177 journey from dreams to legacy – whether you're an active elder, young at heart, or living with some physical or cognitive limitations. We invite retirement communities, assisted living centers, care homes, elder-serving organizations, and entire communities to get involved.
We're making the YOU 177 Lead Innovator Community of Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON an aging innovation hub for rippling out innovations nationally and internationally.
In general, if you're an individual or organization, your journey can begin with dream discovery – because you're never too old to dream! 7-Generation Thinking resources then spark new ideas and help reframe what you're doing. Aspirations become action in a big-picture context through strategic legacy projects that involve at least two generations. Legacy projects are the building blocks of a new 7-Generation World, calling on intellect, empathy, and creativity.
Entire communities can participate in YOU 177 in a bigger way.
Dream Bigger, Create Legacy. Join us on the leading edge of building a 7-Generation World. For more information, contact the Legacy Project at 1-800-772-7765 or e-mail us. For updates on YOU 177, follow the Legacy Project on Twitter and sign up
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