EngAGEment Snapshot: Arizona Grantmakers Forum

The EngAGEment Initiative partners Grantmakers in Aging with regional  associations of grantmakers and other national organizations to introduce grantmakers to the many needs of our aging population.

Guest Post by Lindsay Mitchell, Communications Associate, Arizona Grantmakers Forum

When I first joined Arizona Grantmakers Forum in November, it was just two months before the launch of our EngAGEment Initiative. Being a young/emerging professional in the philanthropic sector, I have to admit it that grantmaking in aging was not the most captivating issue to me. However, being as new to Arizona as I was to the Forum, I assumed that aging would be a hot topic among funders, nonprofits and policy makers here. After all, this is where huge numbers of people come to retire, if they can’t stand the Florida humidity—right?

A common misconception, I soon discovered from the results of our initial member survey. When asked to guess the percentage of Arizona’s population aged 65+, most gave figures of 30% or more, with several guesses in the 40-50% range. In reality, about 13% of the AZ population was over age 65 in 2009, but this demographic is steadily and quickly rising. It is estimated that by 2015 it will be 17%; by 2030, 22%.

Many experts are predicting staggering economic costs associated with this demographic wave. Arizona is of particular concern, being the 2nd poorest state in the country. Social Security is the only source of income for over a quarter of Arizonans age 65+.

But while these numbers alone are alarming, what really surprised me was the overall lack of funder interest in this area. Grantmakers will increasingly be called upon to help alleviate the adverse societal impacts of this demographic shift. But they can also play a role in helping communities capitalize on the assets and opportunities of an older society.

In January 2011, AGF launched a two-year EngAGEment project to build grantmaker interest and momentum around aging issues. The initiative will focus on three issues in aging:

  • Civic engagement of older adults
  • Low income seniors/Income insecurity
  • Healthy aging

We are just getting started, but I’m happy to share the information below from our first program, “Engaging Older Adults as Untapped Resources.” AGF plans to host three programs a year to provide funders with the opportunity to build a solid, shared knowledge base that includes best practices from around the country. Our second program is scheduled for September 27th, and will focus on low income seniors. Our keynote speaker will be Ramsey Alwin, Director of the Economic Security Initiative at the National Council on Aging.

Our April 11th event proved to be an inspiring and educational day for funders in AZ. The video above shows highlights from our keynote speaker Marc Freedman, CEO and founder of Civic Ventures and author of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife.

Click here for more information about our Grantmaking in Aging Initiative, as well as additional videos, slides, supporting documents and other materials.

Ultimately, we hope to create a community of funders, nonprofits and government agencies that operates with a shared understanding of what’s needed, what works and what’s possible to enhance the quality of life for Arizona’s older adults.


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