The Purpose and History of Continuing the Conversation (CtC)
Doug Ross (2012)
Our name shift to Engaged in Aging (2013)
In the Spring of 2008 the “Act II Business Plan Task Force” at SCOPE was meeting about an Institute to follow up SCOPE’S project known as Aging: The Possibilities. We were discussing the concepts and objectives for the new Institute. I quote two of the offerings, “What is needed is the whole community development piece – looking at change in this community. Our “communities of interest” would also include the smaller communities within Sarasota such as the “Wellness Community”, neighborhood communities, development communities, etc.”
At one point I suggested that I would facilitate a series of meetings that would bring the right people together. My thinking was that the SCOPE Winter Forum was stimulating provocative discussion of topics by the Forum’s guests speakers, but that nothing else happened until the next Winter Forum. I thought it would be a good idea to invite Forum attendees to join in a continuing conversation throughout the year, and we built that into the planning for the 2009 Forum. I called it Continuing the Conversation (CtC). Our purpose was to build a community of interest through these conversations. We had a great response to the request for attending.
Typically, SCOPE’s ED Tim Dutton would speak at our sessions, and inform the group of the progress of the Institute. Questions would seek to understand the structure and what all would be needed by the Institute. Our earliest thoughts were that topics like healthcare, the value of the arts, a need for employment in what we heard called the Encore Generation, and the general need to inform and educate the Sarasota Community about the aging process and issues involved with it were our probable focus. We were committed to a grassroots, bottom-up approach to the group structure.
We had a first CtC meeting in which we asked our attendees to identify potential interest groups and to begin to meet together. I remember that we had self selecting interest groups in Healthcare, Housing, The Arts, Workforce, Personal Development, and Intergenerational Issues. There are four steps to group development known as forming, storming, norming and performing, and the groups each developed at different rates.
The Intergenerational Group never met after the organizing meeting, and the Personal Development group blended in with Healthcare. The Housing Group at first was interested in Universal Design, but morphed into a group focused on Co-housing. Healthcare and Creative Arts and Vitality (CAV) seemed to thrive. Workforce limped along with three members.
A year later CtC reorganized and we discussed ways to use the internet to enhance connections. Basically, we were the offspring of the Winter Forum and operating from the SCOPE base. SCOPE provided a structure to allow us to announce meetings and workgroup sessions. It also served as a way that related SCOPE events could be noted, e.g., the yearly Boundary Crosser Awards. From our perspective, the Institute concept moved slowly as RTI Consultants studied the environment and evaluated prospects for a successful and unique Institute with the goal of understanding a demographic that was common in Sarasota and could be predicted for other communities across the USA as the Baby Boomers faced retirement age.
Tim Dutton and I would continue to clarify the fact that the Institute would be a separate identity, have its own CEO and Board, and there was no guarantee that the CtC would influence their eventual programs and structure. We pointed out that our independent CtC Groups could initiate their own actions as they chose to do so, and Healthcare, one of the largest and most active groups with leadership from Arthur Lerman and Steve Roskamp, began the process of examining access to services. The Creative Arts and Vitality group held monthly meetings with invited master speakers, and culminated these talks with a joint meeting with Healthcare at which Dr. Larry Thompson, (President of The Ringling College of Art and Design) was the featured speaker. The Workforce Group with new leadership from Caryl Lenahan branded themselves as Work Matters! and began an active look at job needs. A new group called Brain and Awareness was getting established under the guidance of Dave Goodrich.
In a meeting of the CtC in 2011 we initiated the addition of groups involved in Internet Use and Financial Concerns. There was also an interest in a group of Caregivers, an idea that seemed related to the goals of the original Personal Development group. The Brain and Awareness group, which was also limping along, attracted new interest and noted its affiliation with a Pierion Springs brain study group known as the Allen Grindal Study Group and then added the dynamic presence of Steve Klindt from the Roskamp Institute. “Workforce Matters!” broadened its perspective and attracted new members including Paul Dick, owner of Suncoast Jobs. They also adopted the Financial Concerns Group partly because Caryl Lenahan, leader of “Work Matters!”, is a Financial Advisor, and partly because few CtC members were attracted to the topic.
The Creative Arts and Vitality Group had lost its inspirational founding leader in Janice Mee. It was a setback and left a void that was hard to fill. The Janice Mee Creativity and Vitality Workgroup has reorganized and clarified the relationship with an outside group known as the Sarasota/Manatee Coalition for Arts and Health. Susan Jackewicz is the current facilitator.
Two days before a meeting on July 29, 2011, the Sarasota County Commission awarded a benchmark 1.2 million dollars to the newly formed Institute for the Ages, ensuring that funds were available to hire an ED, a part-time Community Engagement position, and form a new national Board of Trustees. It was clear that the success at the Commissioner’s meeting added interest and new attention to CtC. As this is published, there are structural conversations taking place to explore the relationships among the Institute, SCOPE, the Winter Forum and CtC. The 2012 Winter Forum was sponsored by the Institute for the Ages.
Our name change to Engaged in Aging includs a new, more action oriented, place among local aging-based organizations. We hope to provide information sources that improve life for adults 55 years of age and older.
Engaged in Aging Founder, Leader and Facilitator