BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
I am what survives of me, and love is truly the legacy we leave behind.
—Marc Freedman, How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations (2018)
We recently asked California author and social entrepreneur Marc Freedman, who will speak January 22 at The Village Chicago, to tell us more about the compelling quote listed above from his new book, now number one on the Wall Street Journal’s Best Books of 2018 on Aging Well list.
Although he is in his 60s, his voice reveals the winning nature of what has always been known as a boyish enthusiasm that captures you immediately.
Marc shares: “We benefit from the work of the previous generation in a real sense of fulfillment and while we should not be forestalling mortality, we can extend our lives by coming together with young people and being there for them. This is the path to achieve happiness.”
He is quick to point out that 2019 is the year when there are more people over 60 than under 18. There couldn’t be a better time to reweave the social fabric concentrating on what he terms “generativity.” (We love his quote: “Have young friends with a Vengeance.”)
Marc believes in “the power of proximity.” In his grassroots movement Gen2Gen, he challenges older people to advocate for a better future for younger people. The goal of Gen2Gen is to mobilize one million older people to help the younger generation thrive, in the process making things easier for the generation in the middle. He feels that the needs and assets fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
The Gen2Gen Encore Prize offers $100,000 in yearly funds and support for innovative programs to tap the talents of 50-plus adults to help young people thrive.
Marc challenges the rationale of places like Sun City and similar retirement communities started in the 1960s by Del Webb and others that were inhabited only by people over 65. He feels that they are based on “age apartheid”:
“In a single century we’d gone from one of the most age-generated nations on earth to its mirror opposite. And in the process, we transformed the ideal for later life into an embrace of a second youth, at least for those who could hang on. In the end, culture and institutions lined up to radically reroute the river of life.”
Marc points to Judson Manor in Cleveland, which champions intergenerational living by offering free housing to Cleveland Institute of Music students who celebrate the arts with senior residents with whom they live side by side.
He says, “Multi-generations lived together 100 years ago, crossing paths through families, churches, and even schools, such as in one-room school houses. There is no relationship more revered than the one between a grandparent and grandchild. We have lost that daily contact, and we need to work hard to find settings where we can be proximate. Volunteering together is a great means to achieve this.”
He points to the Eisner Foundation, which identifies, advocates for, and invests in high-quality innovative programs that unite multiple generations.
Marc’s talk will be part of the Village’s Longevity Symposium and launches its 10th anniversary year. He will also be speaking at the DePaul University Student Center on January 22 as part of his national book tour. Dianne Campbell, Founding Executive Director of The Village Chicago, told us how delighted the organization is to host Marc:
“The Village Chicago is all about connectivity, engagement, and interdependence. Living inter-generationally has been part of the Village’s DNA since its start and now we are recruiting a Bridging Generations Board of young leaders charged with creating new generation to generation connections.
“Marc’s message is a message for all of Chicago. Connecting the generations benefits us all and, for older adults, it is legacy building—and who doesn’t want to build a legacy? Research shows that older adults who invest in nurturing the next generation are three times more likely to be happy and fulfilled in their second half of life with than those who fail to do so. Many of our members are so engaged.
“The Village Chicago exists to support the health and wellbeing of its 450+ members. The Village keeps us connected to each other, our communities, and the city as we navigate our longevity—and understands the power of purpose in later life.”
Believing mentoring is key, Marc sites his lifelong mentor John Gardner, the leadership expert who founded Common Cause and was President Johnson’s Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. Although he died in 2002, John’s words still ring in Marc’s ears:
“We can all learn from his tough-minded optimism. He felt that we all have been given a breathtaking opportunity to solve the unsolvable—definitely true right now as well. He taught me how important time is, and as I move into my sixties, I harvest his sense of urgency to live out his words.”
For further information on Marc’s talk, click here or call 773-248-8700.
Photo credit: encore.org