[Leadership for Older Adults: Aging with Purpose & Passion]

By Cusack, Sandra A.; Thompson, Wendy J. et al. | Canadian Psychology, November 1999 | Go to article overview

[Leadership for Older Adults: Aging with Purpose & Passion]


Cusack, Sandra A., Thompson, Wendy J., Auger, Jeanette A., Canadian Psychology


The process of reviewing this text has been similar to a roller coaster ride. When initially approached to conduct a review, I was intrigued and excited by the title and its promise. When the book arrived and I noted the hefty $51.75 price tag for a paperback with just over 200 pages, my enthusiasm began to wane. Further, as I read that the authors define older adults as "anyone over the age of 50" (p. xi), I was interested to see how this text would relate to my life as a 54-year-old. I know from 27 years of experience as a researcher, educator, and community developer in the field of gerontology that my life now is much different than it will be when I am 65 and no longer in the paid workforce. I also recognize that my life as an older, white, professional woman will be different from the lives of others not considered in the mainstream of Canadian society. So my initial response was, how could they just lump all of these age groups together?

Another initial concern that I had when reading the text was the lack of discussion of the concepts of gender, race, and ethnicity, sexual preference, and class when dealing with matters of the perceived and actual ability of particular individuals to undertake leadership roles. Although the authors do discuss the concept of ageism, they do not link this ideology and behaviour with that of the equally confining expectations noted above.

So why my conundrum while reading and reviewing this text? Essentially, the book is about ways to empower older adults to take on leadership roles in their communities. As well, it is about how to change organizational structures to ensure that older persons are included in decision-making processes which affect their lives. With such inclusive policies in place, it is argued, older adults would see their retirement as an "opportunity for growth and personal development" and as a means to remain active and engaged in "challenging and worthwhile enterprises" (p.12). Thus there is an implied assumption that all older adults choose to become leaders in their communities and that this form of community participation is somehow more valuable than some others in terms of living an active and fulfilled life.

After a discussion of both gerontological and leadership training theories as a means to frame the topic under discussion, the authors present case studies of leadership training programs in two seniors' centers, Centennial Center and Carnegie Hall.

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