Can seniors save the world through social activism in their life after retirement? Dr. Thelma Reese thinks so. And, she knows so, too. She’s the co-author of the new book How Seniors Are Saving The World: Retirement Activism to the Rescue! with BJ Kittredge. While we often see examples of senior volunteering, this book highlights seniors who are activists in various ways on a range of issues.
Seniors Helping Others in Retirement
The book tells the stories of seniors from various walks of life, ages, and backgrounds who are doing just that. They are investing their time, energy, and passion into causes that matter— and they’re making a difference. Whether it’s volunteering or activism that’s a fit for you, you’ll find these stories inspiring ways to get involved – in ways big and small.
- Why she wrote this new book
- What the diverse group of 24 seniors profiled in the book has in common
- Some of the stories and causes detailed in the book of seniors changing the world
- What she thinks we can learn from the pandemic
- How her thinking has evolved during the pandemic on topics like ageism
- Why intergenerational relationships are so important
- The story of a new intergenerational course she’s creating with a group at Temple University and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Philadelphia
- Her advice for seniors who want to get engaged in saving the world
Dr. Reese joins us today from Center City Philadelphia.
Thelma Reese, B.S., M.Ed., Ed.D., all from Temple University, began teaching third grade in 1954. When her two daughters were in school, she began her graduate studies in Educational Psychology, was awarded a pre-doctoral fellowship, and was active first in the field of Reading Psychology and Education. She taught as an adjunct professor at Temple University and Arcadia University. When her children were grown, she became a professor of English and director of special programs at Community College of Philadelphia.
After early retirement at CCP, she created the Advisory Council for Hooked on Phonics and was its spokesperson in the ’90’s. In that role, and as director of the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy for the City of Philadelphia, she appeared frequently on television and hosted a cable show in Philadelphia. She was a founder of Philadelphia Young Playwrights, chaired the Board of Children’s Literacy Initiative, and organized the World Symposium on Family Literacy at UNESCO in Paris in 1994.
She is co-author, with Barbara M. Fleisher, of The New Senior Woman: Reinventing the Years Beyond Mid-Life (Rowman & Littlefield). Their second book, The New Senior Man: Exploring New Horizons, New Opportunities was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2017. Her latest book is How Seniors Are Saving the World: Retirement Activists to the Rescue!, co-authored by BJ Kittredge, published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2020.
Reese and Fleisher created the blog www.ElderChicks.com in 2012, which is ongoing since the passing of Dr. Fleisher in October of 2016.
She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, Harvey Reese, who is an artist and the author of several books, including How to License Your Million Dollar Idea (John Wiley, publisher).
On Activism vs. ‘Clicktivism’
“I think activism really is just doing something that goes beyond thinking about it. I love the word that I found somewhere clicktivism, where we just click on or like something on Facebook. It goes another step. In some ways, I think we just redefined activism tremendously with the pandemic. I think seniors just by staying in, have been activists – just by not making things more dangerous for themselves and others. You can take it to the level It doesn’t want the accolades, doesn’t want the notoriety, doesn’t want to be noticed necessarily, but wants to make sure that it’s happening, something good is happening – and how to part of that of getting it going and keeping it moving. So activism can range from picking up a phone to call your congressperson, to writing postcards, but it goes beyond the clicktivism.”
On Focusing on What Matters
“People who talked about downsizing (we’re not talking just about the time to actually get rid of material stuff) found that they were getting rid of some stereotypes, some opinions, some ideas that they held very strongly – that they didn’t all of a sudden didn’t matter anymore. Things that we thought were so important, things that would take hold of you immediately, even physical things that would take you immediately to the ER or an Urgent Care suddenly ‘This can wait.’, And this is such a big deal. So many things turned out to be things that could wait, including a lot of scheduled doctor’s appointments. And things that we had to attend to in person now we’re getting used to the way we’re communicating now and not seeing each other in person. That’s a big change. That’s a very big change. And I think for many seniors, they’ve been brought into a lot of the technological changes that they hadn’t embraced before.”
Advice for Senior Activists
“First of all, take care of yourself, be good to yourself. Count what’s good. Be computer savvy enough to Google everything that interests you. And when you find something that does, try to get involved. One thing we felt strongly about with this book was not just to tell the stories. At the end of each chapter is something called How to Connect. And if it interests you, you can connect by either going online and learning more… [and] any of these can spark an interest in you. And it might be that you just want to read about it and then find something else. Don’t feel you have to act on the first thing that piques your interest, find something that you might sort of fall in love with. And now that we’re all getting used to not having to meet in person, it’s okay. You can do all this remotely and feel, just as involved. We’ve learned how to be just as involved this way. And as you are really involved in something, you will find that you’re not as involved [with] the things that are bothering you about aging. You’ll find something good about it. And you’ll find that you’re still growing.”
For More on Thelma Reese
Thelma’s Blog: ElderChicks
Follow Thelma Reese on Twitter: @ElderChicks
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