I Am Because We Are

I Am Because We Are
By Katie Smith Sloan

We are reminded every day that our well-being is intricately intertwined with the well-being of others. Our African concept of Ubuntu—”I am because we are”—captures this beautifully. … It is in the simplicity of this philosophy that we draw our resilience. 

Global Ageing Network Board Member Femada Shaman wrote these wise words to describe how her aging services organization weathered the devastating floods that wreaked havoc on South Africa last spring.

Femada, CEO of Tafta, attributed her organization’s resilience to the fact that dedicated team members worked together throughout the crisis to keep residents safe—despite the fact that these team members faced their own flood-related hardships.

I cannot read Femada’s reflection without thinking about our global community of aging services providers.

Like Tafta, aging services organizations around the world have experienced an alarming assortment of hardships over the past several years: climate-related emergencies, the global workforce crisis, the coronavirus pandemic, new worries about financial viability, and the day-to-day challenges associated with providing the best care possible to a growing, and increasingly vulnerable, older population.

How do we go about addressing these challenges so we can build a sustainable system of care and support for the world’s older adults? It seems to me that applying the African concept of Ubuntu to our aging services sector is a great place to start.

I am because we are.

Providers of aging services around the world, and those who support them in their work, represent the “we” in this statement. All of us face similar challenges, no matter what country we call home. Before we can make any progress in addressing those challenges, we must recognize our deep connection to one another and then find ways to work together to implement solutions and approaches that will ensure our shared resilience and sustainability.

To put it simply, providers of aging services across the globe must chart the future together. And we must act quickly. We have no other choice.

This year’s Global Ageing Conference, which takes place Sept. 7-8 in Glasgow, Scotland, offers an invaluable opportunity to begin this process. Fittingly, the conference theme is, “Care about our Future: A Global Symposium for Sustainable Care and Support.”

Together, conference attendees will explore innovative and forward-looking programs and approaches that hold promise for bringing about lasting change in such areas as workforce, human rights, models of care, ethics, leadership practices, and the well-being of residents and clients. Even more important, we’ll engage with colleagues who share a commitment to ensuring that every older adult in every country on the planet can access high-quality services and supports well into the future.

The Global Ageing Network conference comes at a critical time for the aging services sector as we chart our future in a world that is aging rapidly. I hope you will join colleagues from around the world as we prepare for that future by learning, sharing, and innovating together.

Come to Scotland and experience firsthand the power of Ubuntu:

I am because we are.


*This message was initially shared with LeadingAge members on February 22, 2023.