Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Interview with Dr. Tarek Shuman

I recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Tarek Shuman-- Director General of the First World Assembly on Aging (1982) -- to get his thoughts and recommendations on the important issues in the area of aging.

His early years of Social Work education led him to realize the great potential of the then relatively new and fast expanding field of aging. His doctoral dissertation focused on aging workers, social security and pensions, grounded in the belief that the aging field should go beyond the ever popular “humanitarian” role that focused on healthcare, homes for the aged, nursing homes and recreational activities. Shuman argued for a “developmental” role that goes beyond individual older persons and embraces the impact of population aging on society as a whole. And so, according to Dr. Shuman, the First World Assembly on Aging was a first attempt, though with very limited success, to redirect the attention of policy makers and gerontologists to the complementarities of these two roles.

I asked about how he evaluated the efficiency of outreach programs to educate people about aging issues. He answered that they are disappointing as any approach being taken-- whether by governments or NGOs-- is still incomplete. Most researchers still ignore the “developmental” side of the story; he believes that the field of aging is not balanced.

On a final note, Dr. Shuman was kind enough to give me personally, and GAA interns in general, some words of encouragement and advice. He praised the work we are doing here and how important it is to take what we learn here back to our countries. My country Lebanon, for example, has not yet matured in this field. It does not go beyond the humanitarian charitable issues of aging. Hopefully, my education can someday inform and encourage policymakers in Lebanon and help this country catch up with the rest of the world.

Dalia Sayess; d.sayess@globalaging.org


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