“By being a Senior Correspondent, I write. I find myself. I'm appreciated.”
That’s the voice of Roberta Needles, a resident of Wesley Homes, a nonprofit senior living organization in Des Moines, Wash.
Earlier this year, Roberta submitted her first essay to Senior Correspondent, Signal Hill's unique news venture that combines the reporting of veteran journalists with personal essays by older adults of all walks of life. “A Trip to the Beach” details Roberta's experience with her grandson.
“We walked on the beach where he flew his kite,” Roberta writes. “I took pictures. We talked as we walked and picked up shells. We laughed as the ocean waves chased us inland.”
That evening, back at their cabin, the grandson said he wanted to draw. “There was a fire in the wood stove,” Roberta writes. “As the evening went by I realized the only sound in the room was the crackling fire and the sound of our pencils sketching on the paper. It was a holy sound to me.”
Roberta's essay and others we publish are forays into the past. Each essay, by definition, is an attempt: our aim is to make meaning out of what is found. Roberta says, “I find myself.”
Senior Correspondent is a social enterprise built on the experiences of Roberta and her peers. The enterprise, by definition, is an undertaking: our aim is to amplify the voices of older adults for the good of society.
Roberta concludes, “I'm appreciated.” Yes, she is. My colleagues and I value her perspective. And we believe that readers of all ages are hungry for the wisdom she and other Senior Correspondents share.
We look at the cultural landscape and see disregard of older adults. Advertisers denigrate older adults to make younger consumers laugh. Politicians treat older adults as a monolithic special interest group whose sole motivation is to protect what they have without care for others.
Our culture trumpets the miraculous achievements of older adults who defy aging — skydive, run marathons, don't look a day over 50. Even the senior living profession shows its fetish for youth by advertising with models 20 years younger than actual residents.
What we lose without regard for aging is perspective, gratitude and wisdom. Yet society cannot deny the gifts of aging for long. Something is turning in our culture; a fire is being kindled as the largest demographic awakens to its genuine power — what pastor and theologian Mahan Siler calls “a huge, collective force for good.”
This awakening highlights the shortcomings of media. While coveting younger audiences, media miss the opportunity right in front of them — news consumers reared on media's most valuable offering: old-fashioned reporting. And media fail to leverage the resource they already possess, namely veteran journalists who bring context, clarity and credibility to reporting because they have experience. Sadly, this talent is let go as news outlets make cuts to survive.
Our message to these veteran journalists: We want you. To older adults of all walks of life: We need you.
As other media ignore or, worse, patronize older adults, Senior Correspondent celebrates their strengths and honors their voices. As other media reduce complex issues and complicated lives to short sound bites, we take the long view. We call it “a seasoned view of the world.”
This is our attempt to change the dominant narrative. This is our undertaking to maximize the gifts of aging. We promise a revolution in media. Moreover, we offer a vision for society — a commonwealth that is wise because it is fed by particular stories, especially the stories of older adults.
The revolution begins with Roberta reporting on her life and her world.