2012 Madison Church Women United
Celebration of Human Rights:
The Aging Struggle for Dignity
By Jonathan Gramling,
As the Baby Boom generation enters the golden years, many will realize that those years of comfort and dignity that they have earned
aren’t so golden. Since 1977, Christine Beatty has worked with older adults at the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, the Monona
Coalition for the Elderly and since 1989 as the head of the Madison Senior Center. Beatty has been a national figure in advocating for
quality services for the elderly including as convener of the National Council on Aging Leadership Council. And in the intervening
years, she has gone from being advocate for the elderly to being an advocate for herself as well.
On January 7, Madison Church Women United honored Beatty with their 2012 Church Women United Human Rights Award at
Memorial United Church of Christ in Fitchburg.
“Mayor Soglin asked me to come and he said, ‘Please talk about her foresight and talk about her leadership on a national level,’”
said mayoral aide Katie Crowley. “’We are delighted to be able to share Christine and her guidance and her foresight with the entire
In her acceptance remarks, Beatty noted the increased community impact of discrimination against the elderly.
“Golda Meier said, ‘Old age is like a plane flying through the storm,’” Beatty said. “’Once you’re on board, there is nothing you can
do about it.’ But let’s look at the impacts of ageism such as bias on the job. In the late 1990s, more than 19,000 age discrimination
complaints were received yearly. That number has now doubled. However, attorneys say age discrimination often is hard to prove
and only about one in seven cases were settled to the complainant’s benefit. In the current environment, these statistics are
worsening. Many discouraged and frustrated older job seekers may agree with the statement that old age is when you know all of
the answers, but no one is willing to ask you the questions.
“If health care is a right, older adults are less likely to receive preventative care and often lack access to doctors trained in their
needs. Only about 10 percent of U.S. medical schools require work in geriatric medicine. Only about 7,600 physicians are certified
as geriatric specialists, far below the projected 36,000 that we are going to need by 2030.”
While stressing the need for dignity and respect for the actual and not stereotypical abilities of the elderly, Beatty also stressed that
the elderly hold a unique place in our society.
“We all aspire to live to be old and consequently, we must all work to create a society where old age is respected and yes, honored
and where persons who have reached old age are not marginalized,” Beatty said. “In closing, please let me remind you. Do not
regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.”
Shirley Stennis Williams (l-r), Christine Beatty and
Katie Crowley (l-r) and Christine Beatty