THE BLOG

The "Golden" Years

12/03/2013 04:38 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2014

They are our parents, our grandparents, our heritage. They served our country and fought for our freedom to build this nation. They fostered strong family values and served our communities to provide a better tomorrow for future generations. In many cultures, they are treated like royalty and held in the highest-esteem. Here in the United States, we often call them "the greatest generation" for all they've experienced and endured, bearing wisdom imparted by a wealth of experiences.

They are our current generation of American seniors. They've reached what should be the "Golden Years" of life, yet are often unable to experience the favored years they fought so hard to achieve. Sadly, far too many feel lost and forgotten, denied of the respect and honor they deserve.

As a Hospice and Palliative Care R.N. with over 20 years of experience and more than half of that dedicated to providing direct care for our senior population, I have frequently witnessed the despair, sadness and loneliness in their lives due to strained finances, high medical bills, decline of their health and mobility and even dementia as they contend with daily decisions and activities. "These 'Golden Years' aren't so golden," sadly, is a phrase I've commonly heard by this generation, and recent data shows why. According to the Pew Institute, approximately 1.3 million American seniors now live in nursing homes and 70 percent of them rely on Medicaid, which means they are low-income or have otherwise spent down their assets. One in five seniors is often depressed, sad or has a serious illness. And tragically, one in 10 seniors admits to feeling worthless or burdensome to others. Taking that extra time to listen and hear their stories over the years, I've learned they have unfulfilled dreams, wishes and sometimes regret. And many are left without the resources to achieve.

Bucket List Foundation was created to make a difference in the lives of our senior generation, especially for those who've given life their best and now face the end of this journey. They've been given a terminal diagnosis, but have wishes left unfulfilled. Perhaps they wish to visit family, take a trip somewhere they've never been, or check off an unfinished item on their own private bucket list. Bucket List Foundation offers hope and quality of life. Much like the wishes granted to children through organizations like Make-A-Wish and others serving our younger generation, Bucket List Foundation and others such as Dream Foundation, Jerry Bloom's Wish of a Lifetime and Bessie's Hope endeavor to make the wishes of terminally ill seniors just as big a priority.

As the population of America ages, we are right now establishing the precedent for how we will treat the vast number of our citizens as they are transitioned to nursing homes, to hospices and all throughout society. Approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day. That rate is expected to continue for the next 19 years, which means the number of seniors will grow from 12 to 19 percent of the total U.S. population in less than two decades -- a staggering 60 percent rise!

What will our nation do to care for the ever-increasing number of seniors? How can we help this generation experience the "Golden Years" they so deserve? Bucket List Foundation is granting wishes to terminally ill seniors; currently serving Arizona residents only. Our mission is to bring hope and quality of life to a generation that has given so much to ours. Part of that process is raising a deeper awareness of this oftentimes forgotten generation. We continue to advance our mission by Granting one wish at a time, Changing one life at a time, Impacting the way society views aging, death and dying by shifting the focus to "Living each day to the fullest because tomorrow is not promised."

This post is part of a series co-produced by The Huffington Post and L'Oréal Paris to celebrate the Women of Worth program, honoring women making a beautiful difference in the world. The ten 2013 Women of Worth honorees are pursuing their passions to accomplish the extraordinary through philanthropic efforts in their communities. Bound by a deep sense of purpose and appetite for change, these women were chosen from thousands of applicants, and each received $10,000 for her charitable cause from L'Oréal Paris. To learn more about Women of Worth or to submit a nomination beginning Spring 2014, please visit womenofworth.com.