Celebrating the accomplishments of over those over 70 is gutsy and daring, especially in Calgary, where (according to 2016 stats) the median age is 36.4 and millennials (22-40 year olds) attract the most attention.
“It’s not daring at all!” roars Jim Gray, the legendary 84-year-old business leader, energy industry icon and Calgary philanthropist. “Seniors are substantially increasing their economic and social impacts in all sectors of our various societies.
“It’s just that Calgary seniors, like those elsewhere, operate quietly, under the radar.”
Statistics Canada recently highlighted, for the first time in census history, there are more Canadians aged over 65 than under 15. Some research is focusing on “superagers,” older adults with exceptional mental acuity.
Stereotypes about over-70s is changing at warp speed, thanks to the 70-plus high achievers like Mick Jagger, Robert De Niro, Steven Spielberg, Dolly Parton, Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Elton John, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others.
There are legions of 70-plus high achievers, particularly in the Calgary area, who rarely get exposure or recognition. The dynamics, the potential and the accomplishment of Calgary superagers inspired and fermented Jim Gray’s great idea: the Top 7 Over 70 Awards.
The awards celebrate the accomplishments of Calgary seniors and, each year, recognizes seven Calgarians who are achieving excellence in one or more fields, focusing on enterprises started after age 70.
In addition to individual awards, Top 7 Over 70 will also create new inter-generational mentorship programs (in conjunction with Calgary Economic Development) to stimulate the economy.
The program is also raising money for the Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society, which helps thousands of local seniors with various programs that focus on everything from budgeting and shopping to transportation, pet care and companionship.
Never shy to say what he’s thinking, Gray explains, “Many of us have retained a measure of good health, both physical and neurological, as well as energy. We are living longer. Traditional retirement – golf and sunning on the beach – is boring to a lot of us. Besides, a substantial portion of us are entrepreneurs, with resources to invest.
“Now, more than ever, it’s important to recognize and reward the new, successful endeavours of people in this age group. Their ability to contribute to Calgary in every aspect, and to help stimulate the economy, represents significant untapped potential,” he says with enthusiasm.
The Top 7 Over 70 winners were celebrated at an early-October gala at Calgary’s Hyatt Regency hotel. And the positive feedback continues.
“I’m thrilled to see this new program recognize the significant contributions our senior population make to our community,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says. “In fact, as our citizens get older, they often give even more to the community in whatever way they can.”
Jim Gray agrees with the cliché that by the time high achievers reach their 70s, recognition and exposure are not really important perks of life.
He also adds that it’s not what the Top 7 Over 70 Awards are about.
“We hope to communicate the increasingly important role Calgary seniors are playing in all aspects of society – economic, social, public policy and philanthropy. And we want to inspire more Calgary seniors to become engaged and get involved.”