Kentucky Man Fights for the Rights of the Aging and Elderly

by

Kentucky Man Fights for the Rights of the Aging and Elderly

by

As a member of the Kentucky Institute on Aging, Jeff Rubin is a vocal advocate for the elderly who believes that every individual has the right to be heard and the power to make a difference regardless of their ability or age. He is also the author of “Wisdom of Age: Perceptions and insights from one generation to another.”

Having spent over 20 years as a director and facilitator of community service programs at the local, state and national levels, he is today an advocate for “age-friendly” and “livable” communities, currently working to advance these initiatives throughout Kentucky. As part of his efforts on the local level, he is working with a community library to create opportunities for grandparents and grandchildren to engage in more meaningful conversation.

 

Q&A

1. What are the biggest misconceptions about aging and the elderly?
Overall, we live in denial about aging. People see it as something that happens to someone else, rarely to themselves. Whenever I give a talk, I’ll start out by asking if there are any “old” people in the room? Very few, if any, hands go up. When I ask if those same people know anyone who is “old,” every hand goes up. It’s not us, but we know who they are when we “see” them.

Instead of embracing age, people see it as a period of decline where value and self-worth are questioned and any dreams they may have for a final chapter are too often discouraged, ignored, or dashed. My experience over the years has led me to believe that too many people still see the elderly as people who only receive services rather than people who are infinitely capable of providing them. It is that mindset that has limited our thinking in planning for the future.

 

2. Talk about ageism and the work you are doing as a member of the Kentucky Institute on Aging.

Ageism is prevalent throughout our society as it is in many industrialized countries around the world. The term “ageism,” however, is often misapplied. Used primarily to describe discrimination against “older” people, it is in fact, the stereotyping and discrimination against any individual or group based solely on age. Ageism, therefore, paints a broad brush in determining human value at both ends of the spectrum, as it marginalizes the young as well as the old. 

The Kentucky Institute on Aging is an advisory body appointed by the Governor to serve as a resource to the Kentucky Department of Aging and Independent Living. As such, we review policies and programs, provide counsel, and engage in educating our state legislature and the public about issues impacting the quality of life of elder and disabled populations. While my work is on issues impacting the elderly, the shift in demographics taking place worldwide affects literally every sector and every age group in our society.

Access to public transit, affordable housing, employment, health and health services, recreation, isolation, civic and social engagement, and intergenerational connection are just some of the issues that affect where older people live and how they live. It also impacts individuals, families, communities, and commerce across the entire socioeconomic divide.

Bringing about meaningful change begins by raising awareness. That’s why I’m most proud of two resolutions my colleagues and I helped draft that recently passed in our state legislature. The first acknowledged the shift in demographics taking place in our state and the need to become a more “age-friendly” Kentucky. The second addressed the need to acknowledge and address the impact of opioids on our elder population when considering the scope of the problem. These resolutions shine a light on two issues previously receiving little or no attention.

 

3. Are you seeing more issues involving ageism and elder abuse as Baby Boomers are getting older?

Unfortunately, I do. According to recent retirement studies, two-thirds of today’s baby boomers plan to work past age 65 or do not plan to retire at all. However, that decision may be harder to realize given the realities of ageism in the workplace.

For older workers and others who’ve experienced job loss, their situation may be compounded even further when viewed against their preparedness for retirement. Nearly 60 percent of workers ages 55 and older have less than $100,000 for their retirement years, and another 24 percent have saved less than $1,000. In short, for an increasing number of traditional retirement age workers today, the greatest fear they face may be running out of money, the consequences of which will ultimately be felt by all.

A growing number of aging baby boomers are also vulnerable to a broad range of exploitation and abuse. Knowing just how many and who they are, however, is often quite difficult to determine since few agencies handling elder abuse keep track of that information. Kentucky, for one, does not have an “elder abuse” law. Rather, the law provides for protection of adults age 18 and over “who because of a mental or physical dysfunction cannot carry out the activities of daily living or protect themselves from others who may abuse, neglect, or exploit them.”

Yet despite what is known, national research estimates report that as few as one in 25 elderly exploitation cases are ever brought to the attention of Adult Protection Services and other related authorities. What may be even more alarming is the research indicating that adult children and relatives make up just over 50 percent of perpetrators of all types of maltreatment, including exploitation.

 

4. How did “Wisdom of Age” come about and what can people learn from reading the book?

“Wisdom of Age” came about because of deep personal and professional concerns I’ve had about society’s view of aging, how those considered “old” are treated, and what my generation and others can expect if we continue to ignore the consequences and absurdity of ageism.

My book provides a thought-provoking view of aging that invites conversation among people of all ages and dispels the myth that one number or any number can be used to define an individual’s value or self-worth or exclude them from contributing to the greater good.

Since “old” is a relative term, the insights and wisdom found in my book reflect the thinking of people on the road to life’s journey and others looking back on the paths they have taken. Whether age five or 103, readers can expect to find something that will engage, inspire or challenge them. My book further supports my belief that anyone, regardless of their given age, can think, dream, and influence the world around them. In short, “Wisdom of Age” confirms the wisdom to be found in any one if we but take the time to listen.

 

5. What resources can people turn to in order to learn more about aging and elder rights?

There are several resources, too numerous to mention here, that people can turn to, to learn more about aging and elder rights. Some of the more obvious are: area agencies on aging, available in every state and covering every county. They provide information on a variety of resources for seniors, including older American act programs. AARP is also a valuable resource, particularly when it comes to elder abuse, fraud, and safety concerns. The National Council on Aging is another reliable and trusted source of information. I would particularly encourage people to check out their website on public benefits for people 55 or older. www.benefitsheckUp.org.

Other organizations, perhaps less well known, are focusing their attention on the positive aspects and possibilities of aging. Sites like Encore, Age Without Borders, the Pass It On Network, Generations United, and more are inspiring elders to uncover or rediscover their passions and purpose and themselves and take advantage of what lies ahead.

For more information about Jeff Rubin, go to wisdomofage.net/.

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