by Patti Digh, Council on Aging for Henderson County Board Member
THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING AGING ACROSS CULTURES
Global aging is among the most pivotal changes of our time. Stark demographic differences among nations will significantly shape almost every aspect of national and international life. Demographics affect growth rates, intergenerational distribution of income, the structure of markets, the balance of savings and consumption, and many other economic variables. Socially, the world will change as well, as families come to have three, four, sometimes even five generations alive at one time. International relations, too, will change as some countries grow and others shrink. The stakes are high.
In this series, we are exploring the norms around aging in each of the countries that will be represented at our Wine Around the World event on October 22, 2015. There are tickets left, but they’re going fast. Tickets can be purchased at our office or online here: coa.eventbrite.com
In many cultures, particularly in the West, the elderly are often considered to be past their prime, depleting our social programs rather than continuing to add societal value.
In Argentina, they balk at that belief.
The city of Buenos Aires now gives pensions to aging Argentinian writers in a program that attempts to strengthen the “vertebral column of society.” Since its enactment recently, more than 80 published writers over 60 have been awarded pensions, supplementing often meager retirement income. “The program is magnificent, delivering some dignity to those of us who have toiled our entire life for literature,” said Alberto Laiseca, 71, one of the recipients, who has written more than a dozen books.
As lawmaker Juan Carlos Junio said, “There’s a general recognition of the transcendent role that writers have had in forging our society.” A writer must be at least 60 and the author of at least five books released by known publishing houses, ruling out self-published writers. The pensions are limited to writers of fiction, poetry, literary essays and plays.
Each recipient’s pension is calculated in accordance with assets and other income, with the aim of bringing the retirement income of writers over 60 in the range of the base salary of municipal civil servants.
In the last 30 years, Argentina has witnessed a growth in the elderly population from less than 7% to nearly 10% of the total population. Additionally, in Buenos Aires City, more than 17% are aged 65 or older.
As for the pensions for writers, “We prefer not to call it a pension, but rather a subsidy in recognition of literary activity,” said Graciela Aráoz, a poet who is president of the Argentine Writers Society. “In the end, this is about fortifying the pleasurable act of reading, which prevents us from turning into the equivalent of zombies.”
In this and other such programs, Argentina is demonstrating the time-honored role of elders as bearers of history and culture.
What does the Council on Aging for Henderson County do that reflects the values of Argentina around aging? The Sammy Williams Center has it’s own drama troupe through our Lunch at the Sammy program. The “OWLS” (Older, Wiser, Lively, Seniors) are members of the program and put on monthly performances that include singing, skits, and dancing. We believe that supporting the creative spirits of elders helps not only them, but us all.