Aging in America: Justice for All?
The 2021–2022 Sidore Lecture Series
The COVID-19 pandemic has once again revealed to the broader population that, while we are all aging and older adults are core members of our communities, older adults also face major social and health related disparities. In the US, aging is often seen not as something to honor and revere but as something to fight and avoid. This cultural reluctance to embrace aging, and failure to see diversity and different needs of older adults has resulted in structures and systems that do not adequately support people as they age nor their families and caregivers. This leaves older adults, family systems, and our communities multiply vulnerable. For many older people of color, LGBTQ older adults, and others, these barriers are heightened by disadvantages accumulated across a lifetime, such as inequities associated with racial, socioeconomic, and educational status. This lecture series is intended to examine these disparities, which are woven into the current fabric of our society and spark considerations for new systems—ones designed to honor, celebrate, and care for our older adults.
The 2021–2022 Saul O Sidore Memorial Lecture Series, “Aging in America: Justice for All?”, explores changing demographics in the US and how long-standing age-related biases in our society affect our health and well-being with the aim to broaden our understanding and awareness of agism as it intersects with racism, gender, sexuality, and class. It also celebrates the diversity of older adults and how attention to aging and disability can innovate and improve how we design, inhabit, and grow more sustainable communities. Speakers in the series aim to stimulate conversations among the UNH and broader communities about the roles we each play in creating the environment we want to age in—now and in the future. In this vein, our sessions include both keynote speakers and community-based panel sessions with area older adults, governmental and private service providers, and others. The resulting conversations will endeavor to empower individuals, UNH, and the greater community, to capitalize on the positive aspects of aging and build person-centered systems and communities that support all of us as we age.
The following are tentative events planned as part of the series. Please check back for final dates, times, and details.
Aging in America: We Are All in This Together (October 2021)
This session will set the context of aging in the United States by framing changing demographics, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on marginalized groups, and the role we all play in shaping our own future as aging adults. We will begin to explore the social and policy issues that will be addressed in the series and engage in conversation regarding participant views and attitudes as we navigate these emergent topics during the series.
Caregiving: Honor and Burden, Contributions, and Impact (November 2021)
As with previous generations, Baby Boomers will depend on their friends and family to help them stay in their homes and communities as they age. Yet demographic shifts mean challenges for the future of caregiving, highlighting the question of who will provide this care. Panelists will provide an overview of the face of today’s caregivers and the costs of caregiving, to businesses, individuals and families, as well as society as a whole. They will provide perspective on how the shortage of home care workers impacts older people’s ability to remain at home as they age. This local perspective on home care and the pressure on a system which is already strained and bracing for increased needs will have all considering, “Who will be there when I need care?”
Aging in Place: Black Perspectives (February 2022)
Aging in place refers to the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level, and this session centers the perspectives of senior African Americans in their own words. In a roundtable session, individuals from several Black history, arts, educational, and activist organizations will share stories of how they’ve made a place called home in New Hampshire, the challenges they’ve faced (and still face), and how they actively shape their communities today. Their stories help interweave longer histories of regional, labor, and seasonal migration, the work of maintaining family connections and political presence as citizens, and what it takes to define themselves and the “Black community.”
Engineering for Humanity: Design, Accessibility, and Intergenerational Partnerships (March 2022)
COVID-19 has demonstrated the necessity of telehealth and provision of services in-home to safeguard older adults’ health and wellness. This session will explore outcomes and challenges of intergenerational design and engineering projects addressing the specific functional, social, and informational needs of older adults, and how new technologies and services enable them to actively contribute to our communities and workforce. Speaker/panel will focus on models and technologies that support older adults in their homes and as employees, and how an intergenerational workforce can positively impact individuals, families, and the community. Presumptions about older adults in the workforce will be challenged, and perspectives of an intergenerational workplace will be shared across the working age-span.
LGBTQIA+ The Social Injustice of Being Forced Back in the Closet (April 2022)
While many LGBT older people are living vibrant, full lives they face unique challenges as they age, often resulting in poorer outcomes than heterosexual older people. This session will discuss the experiences of a generation that was a force behind civil rights and gay pride, returning to the closet out of fears of discrimination and harassment as they age. Speaker/panel will highlight the barriers LGBT older people experience in receiving formal health care and social supports as well as discuss what it means to provide culturally competent services for LGBT older adults. Learn more about the unique disparities facing LGBT older adults, and how to remedy them in this session.
Elder Parole Activism Reignited Amid Covid-19 (April 2022)
Most deaths from COVID-19 have been in older adults, and Black, indigenous, and people of color. On a local and national levels, there has been a notable absence of formal recognition of deaths in public memorials and commemorative practices, due in some part to risk of in-person transmission. This absence replicates disturbing historical trends in the marginalization and erasure of minoritized peoples’ deaths, such as those in the HIV/AIDS pandemic. This session will focus on how intersections of age, race, gender, and class drive marginalization and how we can reimagine and activate public commemoration for COVID-19 deceased and others as an instrument for radical political change at the community, state and national levels.
And co-sponsored Phi Beta Kappa, Distinguished Guest Lecture: Building a World that Includes Disability (date tba)
What would our world be like if it fully welcomed and included people with disabilities?
How could we build that world to share and live in together? Why would that be a better world for all of us? The human variations we think of as disabilities are part of the human condition and have been with us throughout history and across place. From Beethoven to Chuck Close, from Oedipus to William Faulkner, from FDR to Joe Biden, disability is everywhere once we know how to look for it.
Join us for these interactive discussion, which will also include live graphic illustration and mapping of our collective conversation. We will be honoring Covid-19 protocols. October and November sessions will be held virtually.
The series is being organized by Casey Golomski (Associate Professor of Anthropology), Allison Wilder (Faculty Fellow, UNH Center on Aging and Community Living and Associate Professor, UNH Department of Recreation Management and Policy), Laura Davie (Co-Director UNH Center on Aging and Community Living and UNH Institute for Health Policy and Practice Director of Long Term Care and Aging, Jennifer Rabalais (Co-Director UNH Center on Aging and Community Living and UNH Institute on Disability Project Director), Allyson Ryder (Assistant Director, UNH Office of Community, Equity and Diversity), and Kate Crary (Project Director, UNH Institute for Health Policy and Practice and Center on Aging and Community Living).
The Saul O Sidore Memorial Lecture Series was established in 1965 in memory of Saul O Sidore of Manchester, New Hampshire. The purpose of the series is to offer the University community and the state of New Hampshire programs that raise critical and sometimes controversial issues facing our society. The University of New Hampshire Center for the Humanities sponsors the programs.
Photo by Cristian Newman, Unsplash