Theory S: Civic Engagement and Saging
Perhaps no one had more to do with making the connection between civic engagement and saging than the late John Gardner, founder of Common Cause and Independent Sector; Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare; President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; and adviser to US presidents. More than two decades ago Gardner wrote a provocative concept paper that led to the creation of Civic Ventures. In it he set the stage for today’s civic engagement of sage leaders:
It is no secret that conventional views of aging have tended to push older people aside, but it is partly our fault… We know the conventional view is that our society owes its older citizens something, and we would be foolish to quarrel with that. But we owe something too, and this is our ‘operation give-back.’ It isn’t just altruism and a sense of duty, however. We have an active feeling of obligation to our society and our communities. We believe that this will be a great adventure—good for us physically and in every other way. If one lists the problems of older people, health would…top this list, with economic problems…second. After that, very high on the list is a cluster of problems: loneliness, boredom, and need to be needed (Endnote 9).
Since Gardner’s treatise in 1988 an enormous amount of research has connected late-life development with civic engagement. One pioneering effort was conducted at the University of Iowa in 2005. The purpose was to define civic engagement as a retirement role and to differentiate who met this role definition from other retirees. The research concluded that civic engagement can indeed be defined as a retirement role, for engaged retirees were found to differ significantly from those who volunteer less, work in non-civic roles, or do neither. Further, the study concluded that defining civic engagement as a retirement role should include not only volunteers but also individuals who return to paid work in organizations that pursue specific civic purposes (Endnote 10). This reinforces the notion of many encore careers being included as a civic engagement activity.Download Article 1K Club