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Coming of Age in Aging America

The Silver Century Foundation is proud to support this multimedia project, which explores what it will be like to live a very long life in the future—and to live it in a society where half the population is over 50.

Never before in human history have whole populations around the globe lived so long. And it’s a permanent transformation—it won’t go away when the boomers do. Many people have bemoaned this so-called “silver tsunami,” which will supposedly overwhelm us all. We think it’s actually great news. But our society isn’t prepared for it because our institutions and our ideas about aging haven’t changed in 50 years.

The centerpiece of the Aging America project is a long-form documentary that will be broadcast nationally on PBS. It was developed by Vital Pictures, an award-winning media company known for tackling provocative, timely issues. In addition, the project will create an interactive website that will focus on the same, urgent issues, and it will mount an ambitious campaign to engage the public in discussions about what it means to age in an aging world.

An SCF grant enabled Vital Pictures to film and edit a segment of its documentary, Coming of Age in Aging America. The segment,entitled “How We Work,” has also been used to create four video modules, which are designed to spark serious, public discussions in webinars, classes, workshops and other places. The videos are to the right on this page—you can click on them to watch them.

“How We Work” looks at the way jobs and the workplace are changing (and must change) as the nation’s older population grows. These modules tell individual stories while delving into larger questions, such as the new norm of delayed retirement. Today, three out of four Americans 50 or older say they expect to go on working well beyond the traditional retirement age; one in five who have passed that age are still on the job.

This could be a good thing: it keeps people active and engaged and gives them a better chance to save the money they’ll need to support themselves throughout a very long life. But before an extended work life becomes something to look forward to, society’s expectations about later life must change, along with business practices, social policies and attitudes toward aging.

“How We Work” focuses primarily on the not-for-profit WellStar Health System, which employs more than 12,000 people in five hospitals and other facilities in Georgia. It has won awards for being a good place to work.

Nine years ago, WellStar’s management began to look for ways to make it easier and more appealing for its older nurses to continue on the job. Many were approaching retirement age, and WellStar didn’t want to lose their skills and expertise. The nurses themselves served as consultants as management began to rethink the way they worked. Some of the changes that resulted could lead the way for other organizations. The video modules capture the challenges and opportunities of this kind of innovation.

Coming of Age in Aging America dovetails with our vision of a better future for elders. We believe it will educate people of all ages and ignite a long overdue, national dialogue on the future of aging. The project has major funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and AARP.


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Our Mission

The Silver Century Foundation promotes a positive view of aging. The Foundation challenges entrenched and harmful stereotypes, encourages dialogue between generations, advocates planning for the second half of life, and raises awareness to educate and inspire everyone to live long, healthy, empowered lives.

Notable Quote

"It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment; in these qualities old age is usually not poorer, but is even richer."

Cicero (106-43 BC)