My life changed at an unexpected moment eight years ago. My youngest daughter was 16, lingering in the kitchen as I sautéed onions and mushrooms for dinner. She was reading the newspaper and suddenly turned to me in tears and said, “I wish I grew up in the 1960s.”
Her sorrow shocked me because she’s had so many more opportunities than I had at her age. Yet as she read the newspaper, the fragility of our planet and of humanity weighed heavily on her heart. And it broke my heart to see my children living in fear, traumatized by news of violence, economic disparity, and the many global crises that dominate our lives.
At that moment, I didn’t know what to do, where to begin. However, as I spoke with friends, went to workshops, and read widely, I began what has become the most exciting phase of my life. Inspired by my daughter, I now work to assure that her future holds promise, and that the perils of global warming and social injustice don’t rob her of hope.
In my new career as an “elder activist,” I do my best to address issues such as climate change, racism, growing economic inequity, failing schools, and global migration. I’ve learned that these issues are all connected. My activism has taken the form of study and action groups, marches and rallies, and in-person meetings with state and congressional leaders.
Throughout these experiences I’ve been surrounded by hard-working folks, many with grandchildren, who are seeking a better world. We feel a sense of unity and strength as we work together. I believe the Boomer generation could truly make a difference if we reconnected with the values that animated our activism in the 1960s and revived our long-ago ambitions to improve civil rights, safeguard the environment, and work for peace.
Imagine if a return to activism inspired even a fraction of the 10,000 Boomers who will turn 65 today, and each and every day for the next 19 years? What a better world that would be! We would truly be a force to be reckoned with, an age cohort with the potential to push our world toward a tipping point.
This is what I hope will be my legacy—to be part of a generation that reclaims our voices as elders, standing tall in the public square, speaking truth to power and working together to leave a more peaceful, democratic, green, and beautiful world to future generations. We’ve reached the age where we have little to fear unless we do nothing.
Today, my daughter tells me how proud she is of me and says my activism gives her hope for her future. Because I want her to experience so much more than just hope, I urge you to join me in pursuing this vision, so she and future generations can experience the security of a thriving and more just world.
Lynne Iser has a master’s degree in public health from the University of Texas. She created Elder Activists (see elder-activists.org) to inspire, educate, and organize elders to work toward a thriving and more just world. Lynne previously co-founded the Spiritual Eldering Institute (online at sage-ing.org), and she currently teaches workshops on “Becoming Vibrant Elders.”