An Elder Army to Care for Kids
Newsweek|January 07 - 14, 2022
With universal pre-K high on the agenda in the U.S., staffing shortages loom. Here’s a solution
By Marc Freedman and Carol Larson

THE BUILD BACK BETTER ACT, which is still hanging in the balance, includes $400 billion for universal pre-kindergarten along with considerable subsidies for child care. That’s enough money to dramatically change the lives and prospects of millions of American children and families—but for one unanswered question: Given today’s crippling labor shortages, where will we find the workforce to provide care and education for the country’s youngest students?

One of the most compelling and overlooked solutions resides at the other end of the age spectrum, in the vast and growing older population. We need an intergenerational early childhood Caring Corps as ambitious as the Climate Corps that the administration is proposing.

The Caring Corps could start at 100,000 elders helping young children read, learn and develop, then climb to 1 million over six years.

The appeal of older people as a major care-force for young children starts with the numbers: There are now more people over 60 in the U.S. than under 18. But it doesn’t end there. Older people constitute a reservoir of resilience built for this very task.

People in the second half of life are a natural army for youth. Research human development shows that this population has in abundance the attributes and capacities critical to care: patience, persistence and emotional regulation, among others.

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