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Helping People Navigate "The Second Half of Life"

Did you know that Pennsylvania has the second largest population of older adults in the United States?

New Jersey and Delaware are also home to a growing number of people age 50 and older.

As your region's communications partner, WHYY is building a framework to satisfy the wide-ranging needs of people looking forward to or in the "second half of life": people planning their retirement or a new career, active elders, children of aging parents, the homebound and everyone who wants to connect with the people, places and things they love. Our colleague Willo Carey is leading the development of this exciting, multimedia Wider Horizons service.

As we mature, many of us have a renewed spirit of creativity and community involvement. Yet the changes we face as a natural part of aging are sometimes overwhelming -- for ourselves, the people we love and for our community.

We have tailored programming on WHYY-TV and FM, created content on the Web and developed community events to address these particular interests and concerns. On TV, the weekly Wider Horizons segment on Delaware Tonight provides viewers with health, financial and lifestyle information.

Radio listeners here and across America who want a practical look at getting older can tune in each week to WHYY-FM's Been There/Done That. In the next few years, with your support, we will develop enough content to fill a new digital TV channel.

A serious subject that we all face as we age is death, our own or that of someone close to us. Sadly, it is something many Americans are reluctant to discuss. Yet if you are like me, you've already experienced the loss of a loved one, which while tragic, offers the promise of learning something positive.

Using WHYY's on and off-air resources, we have encouraged the public and healthcare professionals to talk openly about death and dying in an effort to help people explore this inevitable part of life.

Last month, WHYY hosted the town meeting "What is a Good Death?" in our Independence Foundation Civic Space. Moderated by Dr. Dan Gottlieb, host of WHYY-FM's Voices in the Family, the forum was one of numerous outreach activities we created to continue the national conversation initiated by Bill Moyers' groundbreaking public TV series On Our Own Terms, the first program to publicly discuss end-of-life issues.

WHYY streamed this meeting live on the Web, providing online participants with information related to the topics shared and an area where they joined the discussion via an online chat. We will maintain an ongoing archive at www.whyy.org/widerhorizons, enhanced with rich video and audio materials, so anyone can use these comprehensive resources.

WHYY has also formed Caring Community, a volunteer coalition comprised of experts from more than three dozen Delaware Valley institutions, including academic and nonprofit organizations, government agencies and health care systems. Caring Community will use various multimedia projects to enhance end-of-life and caregiver outreach through educational programming and supportive services.

This fall, WHYY partnered with The Philadelphia Inquirer, which ran the enlightening 15-part series "Finding Our Way: Living with Dying in America," along with related resources compiled by Caring Community, and published a powerful editorial urging people to discuss end-of-life issues. Dozens of readers also responded to the question "What is a good death?" in the newspaper's "Community Voices" section.

Next month WHYY will serve as a host site for the Hospice Foundation of America's Eighth Annual National Bereavement Teleconference "Living with Grief: Loss Later in Life," continuing the conversation with caregivers and professionals through an all-day Wider Horizons forum. WHYY and Caring Community are also planning extensive outreach activities to extend the impact of the national PBS caregiving program And Thou Shalt Honor, to be broadcast next fall.

Our "second half" can truly be the most exciting, challenging and rewarding part of our lives. We look forward to providing the information, inspiration and community connections through our Wider Horizons service that will help everyone in the Delaware Valley live life to the fullest.