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Moderator: Hello Ladies and Gentleman. It gives me great pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker for today’s plenary address, Dr. Howard Miller. Dr. Miller, Professor of Sociology at Washington University, has written numerous articles and books on the issues facing older Americans in our graying society for the past 15 years. Dr. Miller:
Dr. Miller: Thank you for that introduction. Today, I’d like to preface my remarks from a story from my own life which I feel highlights our common concerns that bring us here together. Several years ago when my grandparents were well into their eighties, they were faced with the reality of no longer being able to adequately care for themselves. My grandfather spoke of his greatest fear, that of leaving the only home they had known for the past 60 years. Fighting back the tears, he spoke proudly of the fact that he had built their home from the ground up, and that he had pounded every nail and laid every brick in the process. The prospect of having to sell their home and give up their independence, and move into a retirement home was an extremely traumatic experience for them. It was, in my grandfather’s own words, like having a limb severed off. He was quite emphatic exclaiming that he felt he wasn’t important anymore.
For them and some older Americans, their so-called “golden years” are at times not so pleasant, for this period can mean the decline of not only one’s health but the loss of identity and self-worth. In many societies, this self-identity is closely related with our social status, occupation, material possessions, or independence. Furthermore, we often live in societies that value that which is “new” or in vogue, and our own usage of lexicon in the English language often does not bode well older for Americans. I mean how would your family react if you came home tonight elated exclaiming, “Hey, come to the living room and see the OLD black and white TV I bought!” Unfortunately, the word “old” conjures up images of the need to replace or discard.
Now, many of the lectures given at this conference have focused on the issues of pension reform, medical care, and the development of public facilities for senior citizens. And while these are vital issues that must be addressed, I’d like to focus my comments on an underlying issue that will affect the overall success of the other programs mentioned. This has to do with realigning our perspectives on what it means to be a part of this group, and finding meaningful roles the elderly can play and should play in our societies.
First of all , I’d like to talk about . . .