For the past two years my calendar has been filled with cancellations of in-person events, replaced by elaborate, if essential, instructions for “zooming” into group meetings. Many of these meetings were productive and, given the circumstances that we all faced, the best we could do.
But as I attended the Alliance for Aging Research’s 29th Annual Bipartisan Congressional Awards Dinner earlier this month, I was reminded once again that there is no substitute for a gathering that brings together a group of individuals committed to mutual goals, celebrating mutual success, and generating energy for even greater future achievements.
The theme of the event this year was celebrating “Generativity, Joy, and Healthy Aging.” I am, of course, familiar with “joy” and “healthy aging,” but “generativity” was new to me. In her welcoming remarks, Sue Peschin, President and CEO of the Alliance, explained that “generativity,” a word coined by psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, refers essentially to the opposite of stagnation. It is a stage of life characterized by giving back to society during middle-adulthood, through doing or making things, being productive at work, being involved in community activities or organizations, or even raising kids. Through generativity, individuals can become a part of the bigger picture. At the Alliance, according to Sue, “our generativity sweet spot is identifying and tackling gaps in age-related health education and public policy; and we do that by connecting people, groups, and Federal agencies to learn from each other and do good things together.”
The event offered a terrific chance to hear about generativity in action, and collectively reflect on the mission of the Alliance: to accelerate the pace of scientific discoveries, and their application to improve the universal human experience of aging and health. This year, that mission was translated into results on multiple fronts: mobilizing the Alzheimer’s Community for Medicare coverage of FDA-approved treatments; fighting for Health Equity; promoting the 6th Annual Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day focusing on timely treatment; advocating for a Medicare Part D Cap and “smoothing” of out-of-pockets costs; and addressing the neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia through Project Pause, among many others. The Alliance also relentlessly spread the facts about vaccines and encouraged older adults and their loved ones to obtain COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters.
As Board Chair of the Alliance, the evening left me with feelings of pride and privilege: I am proud to be associated with this organization, and I am privileged to learn on a regular basis from and about its important work. If I had never heard the word “generativity” before, I fully understand it now, as the Alliance embodies this dynamic approach by creating and connecting every day to improve the experience of aging.