Why we need to see our selves — including our future selves — through the lens of humanity

U.S. Capitol dome and scaffolding (2014) with a black-and-white image of JR’s Au Panthéon! project imposed

It is through the lens of humanity that we will realize the promise of our selves — including our future selves.

Philanthropy, “the love of humanity”

In 1948, Vincent Astor, my grandmother’s husband, established the Vincent Astor Foundation for the “alleviation of human misery.”

The same year, on December 10th, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

After Vincent’s death in 1959, my grandmother furthered the foundation’s mission, until 1997, through engaged philanthropy—decades before the practice was mainstream.

Well in to her 90s, she was center stage as “New York’s First Lady” and a “humanist aristocrat with a generous heart” who “dressed up but never talked down.”

By 100, my grandmother had disappeared from the limelight…until the contents of my petition for her guardianship was discovered by the press, leading to a front-page headline reading “Disaster for Mrs. Astor.”

My grandmother would never want to be known as one of America’s most famous cases of elder abuse.

Nor did she, while in the throes of dementia, choose to be victimized — deprived, manipulated, and robbed — all as part of a calculated “scheme to defraud” by her son (my father).

Yet, the sad circumstances surrounding my grandmother have informed a timely and timeless cause that may be her greatest, most lasting, legacy;

As an elder for over four decades my granmother practiced philanthropy, whose priceless essence is the “love of humanity.”

It is through the lens of humanity that we must view seniors, otherwise made invisible by our ageist attitude.

It is through the lens of humanity that we achieve ageless equity — when the scales of justice balance the promise of our rising generations with our promise to those upon whose shoulders they stand.

It is through the lens of humanity that seniors are part of our shared solution and resolution to address ageless issues that face humanity.

It is through the lens of humanity that we respect and realize our social compact between society and self — where “self” does not have an expiration date.

Today, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70.

The declaration identifies the inalienable rights that everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being (UN Human Rights Day).

Article 29 proclaims:

“Every one has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his [sic] personality is possible.”

Rights and responsibility

With rights comes responsibility, as underscored by Amitai Etzioni and The Communitarian Network.

America’s public-health triumph of the 20th century gained us thirty years, added to our lives (Global Health and Aging, 2011).

To benefit fully from this longevity dividend, we must explore creative solutions to engage older Americans in to our social and economic fabric, more, while protecting those of us in our new old age from abuse and exploitation — a public-health epidemic of the 21st century that compromises society and the inherent potential of a seventh (soon to be a fifth, by 2030) of our citizens.

Boomers are no longer in the 60s, they are in their 60s.

Boomers achieved social transformation for the betterment of future generations fifty years ago. Boomers, in concert with their communities countrywide, will doing the same, now, for the benefit of — and with — our rising generations.

By 2030, the U.S. population will have over 70 million “shades of gray”; the world will have a billion.

Each one will have its own hue, value, and chroma to color our world far beyond that provided by the polarizing perception of a black-and-white approach to “graying,” to individuals, and to age.

Communitywide, it is through our sustained dedication to human rights and responsibilities that we can make full development of our “personality” possible—and, in the process, leave our legacy to humanity.

How will you help respect and realize human rights through ageless equity?

Philip C. Marshall, Founder, Beyond Brooke: Advancing elder justice

Suggested hashtags >
#StandUp4HumanRights #seniors #agelessequity #withelders #ElderAbuse #community #10kperday