OGA was established in 1979 as a statewide organization by a coalition of interested service providers, educators, researchers, and state policy makers. It was viewed by the Senior Services Division within the Department of Human Services as a major dissemination vehicle. Historically the State Unit on Aging provided considerable support to the organization. Key milestones for OGA over the years include: educational conferences, a newsletter, publication of “Profile of Aging Oregonians,” the Oregon Business and Aging Coalition, and a website. The organization has thrived during times of support from state and county aging services and has struggled, like many professional organizations, during hard economic times.
The world has become a very different place from the time when OGA was begun. There are a number of emerging trends that will create both challenges and opportunities for serving people as they age. The most significant trend is that our nation and world are becoming “grayer.” This will stretch the resources available to support and care for the aging population and the organizations that serve them. The Baby Boomer generation has been hit the hardest during the current recession, and there will be less financial capacity to support the aging process in the way most envisioned before the stock market crash of 2008. And yet, people expect just as much or more, and we haven’t adjusted consumers’ expectations to match the new reality of diminished resources. The fundamental question is: How will we do more with less at every level of government and organization and in response to more complex problems?
The second major challenge is the ripple effect of technological innovations in the information age. People are over-connected today. How do you stay in touch and relevant when people are bombarded with information and options? The role of OGA in this web of connection needs to be reviewed, re-assessed and realigned. Another major challenge is the direction of the field of aging. There are very few generalists because of the pressure to specialize and sub-specialize. This challenge is heightened when combined with the over-arching trend of membership erosion in professional organizations. If specialists are associating and networking with their counterparts and OGA does not attract and connect with these people, the organization won’t have the understanding of other fields that it needs in order to respond to complex issues.
Finally, there are the barriers of ageism and fear of aging. It is more difficult to get professionals involved in Gerontological issues unless it is in their self-interest to do so because they tend to fear aging. In order to serve the broad field and number of professions that aging encompasses, OGA will have to find a way to breakthrough this ageism.