November 26, 2022

Mining New Mexico’s ‘Gray Gold’

Posted on 29. May, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

A few months ago I was part of an evening cuisine group, happily feeding my face and minding my own business, but as the minutes flew by I became restless with the conversation and decided to liven things up a bit.

I asked the following question of the 65-80 somethings at the table…”How do you all stay relevant now that you’re retired?” The floodgates opened and back came the responses from about eight different people whose former careers had been pretty successful and important a decade or so ago.

It seemed that most volunteered with charities and with fraternal or non-profit organizations like Albuquerque Sister Cities, the Albuquerque Council for International Visitors, Friendship Force, etc.

One tutored teenagers.  Several worked at local museums like the Nuclear Museum, the Albuquerque Art Museum and the Biopark. Many were members of special interest organizations like the Albuquerque Association of University Women.

I was pleasantly surprised at the positive response. Nobody really felt disenfranchised from society or irrelevant though a few admitted they didn’t understand the younger generation, especially the ‘Occupy’ movement, but that kind of generational bewilderment is commonplace.

This got me to thinking about seniorism and how a fair number of our charities and non-profits would simply fold their tents and disappear without the active efforts of volunteers, especially the older ones.

Where the Gray Gold lives

According to the last U.S. Census of 2010, the percentage of New Mexico’s population that’s over the age of 55 is 25.6%, with seniors 65 and over accounting for over half of that figure. The top five counties for retirees 65 and older are: Harding 29.2%, Catron 27.9%, DeBaca 22.9%, Lincoln 22% and Grant 21.3%. In case you’re wondering how Bernalillo and Santa Fe Counties stack up, Santa Fe is at 15.1% and Bernalillo is at 12.2%. The total population that’s over 55 in our state is 529,191.

How do we mine it?

Our retirees are anything but inactive. They join. They travel. They vote. They purchase. They participate in their community’s affairs and they’re vocal – both within their demographic group and outside of it. In addition to our native New Mexican retirees we are blessed (yes I said blessed) to have thousands who’ve chosen our state as their final earthly address.

These people made a conscious decision to put down roots and make our state their own with the knowledge that they will probably always be viewed as out-of-staters.  For proof, just look at the last gubernatorial campaign when our Governor was called, Susana Tejana!

That parochialism aside, we not only need the current level of volunteer participation from the Gray Gold but we need to significantly increase it! Why? Our charities are hurting because of reduced contributions. Fraternal organizations’ events are being curtailed or at least scaled-back because of the economy. Perhaps most importantly, our state’s businesses and local governments need mentors and to be able to tap into the decades’ worth of experience that our Gray Golders have amassed over the course of their careers.

Think of your own circle of friends and of the careers they’ve had and the contacts they’ve made around the world. Imagine what would happen if we were able to harness that experience and information and have it redound to the benefit of the State!

Making it happen

I believe in the power of leadership and the positive effect it can have on all of us. In order for us to turn our Gray Gold into a currency we can use to help our state thrive and prosper we need the highest echelons of state government to organize these thousands of volunteers. There’s a lot of Gray Gold in them thar hills. Now’s the time to put it to work for New Mexico.

- Editor

















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