Friday, August 31, 2007

Starting From Here...

This blog will celebrate Pittsburgh's special sense of place, and the unique role that elders in our community play in defining and sustaining it.

So a great launching off point in this inaugural post is Pittsblog's Sense of Place contribution tonight linking to the Pop City interview with Grant Oliphant of the Heinz Endowments. Abby Mendelson's interview with Oliphant did indeed make me optimistic for our future, just as Mike Madison suggested it would:
“People don’t realize what we have here. It’s almost like we’re missing the story of the time we’re living in.”

So how do we appreciate the things we have?

"First," he says, “when a person or organization changes the dialogue, they change the world. That’s something my boss Teresa Heinz has taught me, that what we talk about and the way we talk about it has meaning. We need to talk about us. Our place. Our assets. Not just the comparisons. Not just the difficulties.”

One way to do that, Oliphant adds, is to focus on strength. “If you just focus on solving problems,” he says, “you’ll always have problems, and you’ll always be solving them. If instead, you begin by saying, ‘here’s what I like about such-and-such – and now let’s build on it,’ you’ve begun with a positive – and added only positives to it. If you describe your community in terms of assets, you create more assets.”

Can it be that simple? It may be. Change the focus, you change the world.

We constantly read about how Pittsburgh is an OLD city, and it's always presented as a problem. But what does it mean to consider our aging population as a strength?

That's the basic question that will animate this blog as I seek out elders in my Naturally Occuring Retirement Community and elsewhere, interviewing them about things like the Pittsburgh Diaspora and other insights I come across in the Burghosphere. My chief collaborator at the outset will be my 90 yr old neighbor Bob, seen in his GeriatricFellow YouTube videos.

Bob's been working on getting the word out for a very long time, having worked as a teenager circa 1930 in Joe Katz's family garage print-shop. Tomorrow I plan to get his reaction to my good friend Barry Barkan's idea for the Elders Guild, for which Barry and his Live Oak Institute in Berkeley have received planning grant money from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

And bonus points to the first commenter who identifies the historical significance of the river bank in this blog's banner photo above.

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