Thursday, July 30, 2009

Intern's Voice, Ye Wang

My name is Ye Wang and I have interned with GAA for over two months. This was my very first experience working in a foreign country. Also, this was the first time I have had the chance to work with people from such diverse backgrounds. It was really exciting and I am very grateful for all that I've learned and experienced.

I came to the US last year and currently am a graduate student at New York University Wagner School of Public Services. My study concentration at Wagner is Health Policy and Management, which focuses mainly on the US health care system and public health policies. I enjoyed the school work very much. However, because I come from another country where the political systems and social mechanisms are different from those in the US, I often got stuck both in classes and at home doing my readings. I was eager to get out of school, to meet people, and to experience more about the country that I am living in now. By the end of April 2009, I was lucky enough to get the offer from Global Action on Aging and started the internship right after I turned in my last final paper.

Days at GAA are very productive. I was responsible for all Chinese sections, including Chinese articles and reports about China's aging policies. As we all know, China is the biggest county in the world in terms of population, and it will be the country with the largest older population in a couple of years. Moreover, because China is still a developing country, some would say that China will become older before it becomes richer. Older and poorer, Chinese elders need help and should get more attention. I am glad that GAA acknowledged their importance and advocates for the rights of Chinese (and other) older persons.

After two months of intensive reading and researching on this topic, I became more and more interested in how people all over the world see this problem and what are they going to do to tackle it. Today on our website, you can find an article in the Elder Rights section entitled, Population of Older People Set to Surpass Number of Children. It says that the world is about to cross a demographic landmark of huge social and economic importance with the proportion of the global population 65 and over set to outnumber children under five for the first time. It means that the world is not just ageing, but the rate of ageing is also becoming more rapid. As stated in the article, "the transformation carries with it challenges for families and policymakers, ranging from how to care for older people living alone to how to solve the insolvency problem of our pension systems." I won't stop caring for aging although my internship will end soon. I do think all those who cares about themselves and their families should care aboutaging and older people, since we all will be old some day.

What I love the most are the people here at GAA. All the interns that I worked with became my close friends. Though we speak all kinds of languages and come from all over the world, there are things that we all share andvalue: genuine, positive attitude towards life and the world, and the willingness to help others and make a difference. Working with people that you really like can be one of the best things ever to happen. This made mylife at GAA full of laughs that I will treasure for a very long time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Intern's Voice, Emily Wargo

My name is Emily Wargo and I am a 2009 summer intern at GAA. In a mere two months I will begin my senior year at Providence College, in Rhode Island. My studies include a major in Global Studies and a concentration in European affairs. I also recently returned from studying abroad in Seville, Spain for the semester, complimenting my Spanish minor. As a lifetime resident of Connecticut, I am commuting to New York City on a part-time basis to gain experience from the knowledgeable advocates at Global Action on Aging during the summer break.

While abroad I began investigating internship opportunities and was fortunate enough to be offered a part time internship at GAA for the summer. I was thrilled by the original assignments, and little did I know that even more would be added to my list! I am now responsible for finding articles and reports in both English and Spanish corresponding to elder rights, pension systems, health care, and armed conflict facing older persons.

As a GAA intern, my days in the office are kept busy with the constantly emerging news pertaining to the elderly population. Over the past two months I have had the opportunity to work on additional tasks, allowing my creative, liberal arts juices to flow freely. From working to compile an analysis of the current financial crisis’ effects on older persons to attending a session at the United Nations for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, my experience at GAA has exceeded my expectations.

Recently Susanne Paul dropped by my desk with an article from Z Magazine and instructions to upload it to the website. Like all of my other articles, I began formatting the editorial and read it over in order to draft a knowledgeable summary. The piece was a book review of The Grey Panthers; the story of one remarkable group of older persons begun in the 1960’s who fought for their vision of a dignified lifestyle in later years. Aside from their extreme determination, leading to several victories and national attention, one woman in the review caught my attention, Maggie Kuhn. Kuhn founded the group with fire in her eyes, based on the principle that old age is beautiful, not something to be hidden but something to be declared and affirmed. I was overcome with a feeling of contentment as I read the article, knowing that my work here at GAA is furthering her dream. The review is available in the US section under the Health category on the GAA website.

I will do my best to carry Kuhn’s words with me in all of my future endeavors and “until rigor mortis sets in, do one outrageous thing every week.”

Friday, July 17, 2009

Intern's Voice, Jacqueline Foeslter

A Global Action on Aging intern’s assignments vary from week to week, as he or she may meet with diplomats, experts or retired union members, read lengthy reports, or yes, even stuff envelopes with greeting cards beautifully crafted in-house. However, there is one task which ties us all together: the GAA Newsletter. We consistently work on the weekly newsletter from finding articles, truncating them down to a blurb format, posting them on our internal website, transferring them to the external website to share with the public, and all the editing that goes on in between…

My name is Jacqueline Foelster and I have been with the GAA team since January 2009. I graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelors of Science in General Business, a minor in International Development and Conflict Management and in Spanish. Itching to leave the DC suburbs upon graduation, I moved to New York City with only the plan to jump into the city’s vivacity and see what I could make out of it. Could I even make it, is what I asked myself when I landed flat off the Chinatown bus onto 31st St and 7th Ave, and into the epicenter of the nation’s drowning economy. My application submissions for entry-level positions with NGOs and foundations were becoming futile as donors’ budgets, mostly Fortune 500 companies and the upper echelon of the city’s wealth, were drying out. I made do with serving and bartending as people are always up for a fun night out as soon as the clock strikes 5 o’clock and even more so when they had just been handed the pink slip. As I walked to and from work, I read headlines about a lousy Dow Jones, an increasing unemployment rate, and filings for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, not ideal to keep in mind right before starting a shift. It was particularly disheartening to listen to former senior employees of all walks of life having to consider other income alternatives and hashing out their retirement plans, especially because they were so close to enjoying their golden years, yet now very far. I called home every night and kept track of both my grandmothers’ individual dilemmas – Oma’s house had been on the bear market forever and Mak Yeay’s cataract eyes and varicose veins were becoming unpleasant to live with.

The times are tough for everybody, but they are taking an enormous toll on older persons who, I realized, are too often neglected in our daily lives. I geared my job search toward the aging field and gratefully so, as it lead me to an internship with GAA. I have had the opportunity to work alongside Susanne Paul and Magali Girod and a handful of brilliant fellow interns who have kept the organization’s momentum on fire in advocating for Member States of the United Nations to adopt a Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons. One of our most effective ways of doing so is by producing the weekly GAA newsletter which touches every one of our audience members with its featured articles.

The article I would like to highlight is the ‘Government Bets on Chilotean Microenterprises and Older Persons’ article, written in Spanish, which can be found in this week’s Elder Rights, World Section. It presents the efforts of a Chilean community taking a grassroots approach of taking care of their elderly through local social enterprises. Briefly, the field of social entrepreneurship is a rapidly developing field in which the efficiency and profitability of a business meets with the social goals of a NGO. According to the article, regional authorities visited the city of Castro on Chiloé Island to meet with beneficiaries of microenterprises, including older persons. The Regional Secretary for Planning (SEREMI), Armando Pérez and the Regional Director of the Fund for Solidarity and Social Investment (FOSIS), Eugenio Pérez went with them to three of the many microenterprises that improve the quality of life of the island’s residents. They also learned about projects which focus on older persons to improve their quality of their lives and maintain their working capacity.

The article clearly illustrates that, contrary to current stigmas and their respective policies, older persons are active agents in their own lives and still have the vitality to participate in the local community. As a young adult, I draw strength to carry out the goals I have set for myself and to support the rights of older persons so that ultimately they, and I, may enjoy the fruits of our life-long labor.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Project FIND Aid for the Aged

One Thursday in mid-June, Global Action on Aging met with Debra Escort and David Gillcrist of Project FIND to learn more about their efforts to assist older persons in New York City. Project FIND Aid for the Aged, Inc. is committed to help older persons live active and independent lifestyles in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. With three housing residences and five senior centers, Project FIND ensures that older persons in New York can find housing, meals, social and physical activities that they otherwise would not normally have easy access to.

The Hamilton, The Hargrave, and The Woodstock are the three apartments that provide residents with on-site social workers who help facilitate tenant relations, hospital and nursing home admissions and discharges, and counseling. The demand for such housing is so great that the waitlist for The Hamilton alone is at least five years. Social workers in each residency facilitate communication between residents and programs such as Medicaid and Access a Ride and ensure that their needs are met accordingly. For those seniors who are still looking for a means to socialize and stay active, Project Find has five senior centers that are open Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The senior centers are entirely free and are open to any adult over the age of 60, regardless of where they live or where they are from. At The Hamilton Senior Center, members can participate in belly dancing class, Tai Chi, Strength Training, Yoga, Computer Class, a Garden Club, Art, and Salsa to name a few. Residents and members range from healthy and active to homebound and homeless adults.

The New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA) retracted its plan to restructure Senior Centers, which has assuaged the fear that many centers throughout the city would close. Project FIND’s Executive Director, David Gillcrist emphasizes that affordable housing is one of the foremost issues older persons in New York City face. The lack of accessible senior housing, and relatively little funding from the state and federal governments, are underlining concerns that are further compounded by poverty in New York City. The senior centers at Project FIND help reduce the stress of these issues. They serve as a way to stretch budgets and ensure that what little funding is available is maximized for senior use. There is a true sense of community throughout the residencies and senior centers, which provide an appropriate social space for older persons who do not wish to feel stigma often associated with nursing homes and other senior centers. Volunteers derive from all ages and many are residents themselves who are giving back to the Project FIND community.

Thanks to Debra and David for taking the time to meet with Global Action on Aging and to inform us about Project FINDS’ initiatives. FIND Aid for the Aged Inc. can be reached at (212) 874-0300 and can be accessed online at

Below you can find video selections of classes offered at Project FIND's Senior Centers:

Ken Gray's Qi Gong class at Hamilton Senior Center; Tom Campo conducts a Yoga class Clinton Senior Center; Donatas Nacajus conducts a dance class for seniors teaching rumba, foxtrot and salsa at Project Find's Hamilton Senior Center in New York City.