One of my favorite parts of my job is public speaking. I know that stirs up anxiety and fear in some people, but for me it’s invigorating.
Groups are beginning to meet in person again, and I’m enjoying making the rounds to the Senior Summit; Rotary, Kiwanis, Delta Cappa Gamma and Brandeis groups; places of faith; and women’s and men’s clubs.
These groups meet to socially connect, and they often invite speakers to share their knowledge and experience.
As I prepare for a presentation, I enjoy gathering facts, weaving in stories I think might help to make a point and designing a visual presentation to make it all pop. My goal with my audience is to make a connection and encourage them to think and feel.
And the goal for myself is to listen.
After the past two years, there is a lot to talk about and some important realities to consider.
During this time, many older adults had unmet needs—personal safety, social-emotional connection, physical or financial challenges and fear for our future. For those seniors and their adult children, it has brought up a lot to think about as we live through and plan for our “golden years.”
In smaller groups I get to chat a bit with individuals and listen to their areas of concern, what’s important to them or how they are coping with their personal challenges.
In conversation with one group recently, one gentleman commented on the recent articles about rising rental costs for housing, making it difficult for older adults to afford the rents and leading to evictions. His question: “What can be done?”
I wish I had a good answer.
Solutions right now are on a case-by-case basis. Establishing a GoFundMe for an individual will not solve the systemic problem many seniors face today and others will likely face in the future.
There are some movements like home-sharing that can help, and the acceptance of accessory dwelling units, also called granny flats, offers an innovative, affordable option for adding much-needed housing, but these options only scratch the surface.
Following along the lines of financial stability as we age, another gentleman said that even with all the evidence that younger generations should save for their future, the message is getting lost. His question: “What can we do to ‘market’ the benefits of preparing for old age to younger generations?”
My response to this gentleman was that we need to lead by example. If younger generations see us making smart choices and planning for eventualities, they might also follow the same path. However, as another person pointed out, his best impetus for planning for his own future was the burden his parents’ lack of planning placed on him. He said, “I don’t want to do that to my children.”
My recent presentation at this year’s Senior Summit involved a survey I created for community members of the “silent generation,” born 1928 to 1945.
A lot has been written about this generation’s growing up years, but I wanted to understand what life lessons have stuck with them and what is important to them today.
As 80% of the audience was made up of members of the silent generation, I saw a lot of nodding heads when I recounted the key values from the survey that resonated with them. I could feel their pride at being recognized for their strong values, their kindness and respect, and for being a hardworking generation.
I was struck by the survey results and how much the values of that generation are needed now. I left that presentation with one important message for my audience—there is so much good in you. Don’t let those important ideals fade away once you are no longer on this earth.
Set a goal for yourself. Try to pass along and embed, if possible, some of the important values that made you the person that you are and that made your generation so great.
I think most speakers feel their effectiveness is only as strong as the audience’s willingness to listen, and a speaker’s knowledge is consistently improved by listening to audience comments. It is truly a two-way street that improves our understanding and benefits the community.
Thank you to the groups who invite speakers in.
If you are interested in having someone speak at your event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.