Dr. Julian Montoro-Rodriguez is the new director of the Gerontology Program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Our conversation this morning included the aging process in general, the life course of aging, and the Baby Boomer generation. Dr. Montoro-Rodriguez explores the challenges inherent in the tsunami of newly minted 65 year olds, including hunger, housing, and health care. Much time was spent on evidence based programs under development for support networks for grandmothers who are raising their grandchildren. UNC Charlotte is instrumental in developing programs along these lines. Dr. Rodriguez also discussed the reality that Charlotte-Mecklenburg is a young community and getting younger. So there is a challenge to eliminate barriers, physical as well as social, that might prohibit older adults from fully integrating into the community at large. We don’t want to isolate our senior adults. Mixed age and life cycle stage neighborhoods are much preferable to ‘age exclusive’ or ‘age predominant’ neighborhoods.
Children who live in poverty, homelessness and food insecurity put Charlotte-Mecklenburg and North Carolina near the top of this list in failing our children with the most basic needs. So one of Dr. Rodgiguez’s focus points is to address the needs of children, and in doing so, will also benefit our older population. The website is gerontology.uncc.edu. There is a strong message here as well about personal responsibility as we age. Government is not going to be the solution to many of our issues as we age, nor are they going to provide dollars to support the myriad of programs that we might like to have. So everyone needs to take responsibility to build a support organization of their own, and to be a part of that same organization to provide care and services for others in that group.