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A Culture of Progress 

Reflections on the good old days and the best days yet to come.

It is easy to think fondly on the past as a time when life was simpler, people were kinder and there were more opportunities. America was sewn of a rich moral fabric and societal values were based on family, faith, and hard work. While nostalgia is a fond pastime, noting the progress we’ve enjoyed as a nation is important, too. Here, we consider some of the great strides we have taken together as a nation.

Fifty Years of Momentum

Seniors received a boost in health care in 1965 with the advent of Medicare and Medicaid, and since that time the number of U.S. seniors living in poverty has dropped as much as 10 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In the same year, African Americans were granted the right to vote. Americans were awed with Petula Clark’s hit “Downtown” and the movie version of “The Sound of Music,” making its debut at New York’s Rivoli Theater. The movie remains a classic being enjoyed by all ages even today.

In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act ensured all students equal access to free education designed to meet their special needs. In 1977, the Apple II computer was introduced to the public, effectively launching the personal computer revolution. The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999, updated in 2012 with the Workplace Gender Equality Act, afforded women upward mobility and access to equal pay in the workplace.

Significant Progress

And though the media seems to report a steady stream of bad news and economic strife, there have been undeniably positive changes in our society, creating more equitable opportunities all around. Mandatory retirement has all but disappeared, allowing people to choose when they stop working. Today, more females than males attend college. Occupations are becoming less gender-biased, including staying home to raise children, a path chosen by a growing number of men.

Despite recent news reporting racial bias, significant gains have been made in the African American community, including, of course, the election of the first African American president in 2008 — something few people imagined was possible 60 years ago. Finally, a recent New York Times article posted that the average 65-74 year old now has better financial security than at any other time in history and that this age group is doing better financially than any other today.

Moving Forward

As we look to younger generations, we should have hope for the opportunities that come with living in a society in which we judge each other less by our gender, skin color or age, and value people more for what they contribute. It’s our responsibility to support key values in order to continue the forward progress. The challenges of the future look different than those of the past, and we will need to work together across generations to solve them. From rising rates of obesity in our nation’s children, to the growing chasm between the “haves” and “have-nots,” we have our work cut out for us, to be sure.

The only way to solve these and other pressing issues is to take stock of how far we’ve come, to leverage our historical knowledge and to celebrate incremental improvements. Living in stimulating, loving environments, where we can develop a strong sense of purpose, meaning, and curiosity about the world will propel our younger generations toward a productive and happy adulthood. As adults, we need to eat well, exercise, maintain meaningful relationships, and build sufficient income.

By thinking forward about what can be rather than thinking back to what once was, we’ll be better prepared to continue our culture of progress.

Spectrum residents share their thoughts on how American society has changed through the years.

“It amazes me the amount of personal information people put on Facebook or that you can find online. I find the pet videos on Facebook fascinating. They re entertaining.”

“I’m writing my memoirs … more people are interested in this.”

“We used to be able to walk down the street without a telephone in our ear. Now days everyone has a telephone stuck in their ear.”

“Families were closer by means of strong relations to church functions and families visiting through home card parties, etc. They seldom get the deep spiritual and social requirements to help them balance their lives.”

“Seniors today have ideas of being independent, taking care of themselves, staying active and making adjustments as aging frailties appear so that they can continue to be independent and make their own decisions.”

“As I get older my relationship changes with my grandchildren because they too are getting older and we have more of a friendship versus me telling them what to do.”

Thank you to these Spectrum residents – and many more – for their thoughts and contributions!

Ruth Breault PINE RIDGE OF GARFIELD SENIOR LIVING Clinton Township, Mich.

Ruth Breault
Pine Ridge of Garfield Senior Living
Clinton Township, Michigan

Art & Carol Hawn CRESCENT PARK SENIOR LIVING Eugene, Ore.

Art & Carol Hawn
Crescent Park Senior Living
Eugene, Oregon

Jean & Earl Koenig CRESCENT PARK SENIOR LIVING Eugene, Ore.

JEAN & EARL KOENIG
Crescent Park Senior Living
Eugene, Oregon