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The Upside of Aging: How Long Life Is Changing the World of Health, Work, Innovation, Policy and Purpose by Paul Irving

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Chapter 9 Boomer Philanthropists: A Golden Age of Civil Society

Susan Raymond

Executive Vice President, Changing Our World, Inc.

Our aging population promises a future of ever broader and deeper philanthropic activity, becoming the core of vibrant communities, strengthening societal institutions and the nation itself, and ushering in a new Golden Age of civil society.

It was a crystal-clear day on a picturesque road between Kabul and Jalalabad, a rare day off from a three-week, economic-development trip. My colleagues and I of course were aware that it was a time of simmering political and social upheaval in Afghanistan. Still, the roadblock appeared unexpectedly as we drove the isolated macadam road. The next 20 minutes were formative. Having the cold steel of a nervous young gunman’s AK47 pressed against one’s head tends to focus the mind. Luck or providence or both were with me that day, as our local driver convinced the men to lower their weapons and brought the confrontation under control.

Later, I could not help wondering about the parents and grandparents of those young men. How had a society premised on the wisdom of elders, on the ties between generations literally across millennia, become an unstable cauldron of young gunmen? Raised by the strong hand of my own grandmother, I knew how much older people can imprint the values that bind communities, and how their leadership provides the linkage that keeps societies stable and strong.

Afghanistan’s profound history ...

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