With election season behind us and tough long-term fiscal choices ahead, now is the time for Americans of all ages to reflect on the nation's collective future. Rather than focus on what divides us, we can chart a grand new day for our country by focusing on what unites us. We can create an alternate path that engages one of our nation's fastest growing resources on behalf of our children and youth: grandparents and older adults.
Some view children, seniors, and the policies and programs that support them as easy targets for divisive attacks. Those who say we must choose between investments in younger or older people give us false choices rather than innovative solutions. We deserve better and believe that older adults, better protected from the impoverishment of the past, have an essential role to play if we are to convince our policymakers to move beyond the seductions of short-term thinking and toward investments in children and families and the promise of the future.
Americans are not just living longer, we're remaining healthy and energetic. We have the potential and the obligation to contribute our perspectives and experiences to ensure that our communities remain vibrant and viable for all ages. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 40.3 million Americans are age 65 and over. If we mobilized just one percent of this population, we could create a grassroots network of nearly half a million senior champions for vulnerable children and youth.
Sound implausible? Not at all. According to new research conducted by Participant Media and Encore.org, adults over 50 overwhelmingly describe a strong desire to help make the world better for those younger than themselves. A striking finding: The vast majority see volunteering as an opportunity to do good (94 percent), to learn new things (87 percent) and to use their talents (83 percent).
And as one of the largest voting blocs in the American electorate, we can use our political capital to shape solutions to pressing problems with our grandchildren's futures in mind.
The needs are great. According to the Annie E. Casey 2012 "Kids Count" report, from 2005 to 2012 the number of children living below the federal poverty line rose by 2.4 million. According to the USDA, one in five American children is hungry or at risk for hunger. And in their recent study, The National Women's Law Center found that 27 states had child care assistance policies that left families worse off in February 2012 than they were the previous year.
If we are serious about getting young families back to work, we need better quality early care and education opportunities that set vulnerable young children on the path to lifetime success while allowing their parents to better balance work and family life.
Giving back means giving forward. Therefore, at the start of the holiday season, we call on older adults to share their wisdom, perspectives, and key civic values with the young people in your life.
Together, Dr. Bateson and Dr. Lombardi serve as National Honorary Co-Chairs of Generations United's Seniors4Kids initiative.
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