With 11,000 individuals across America turning 65 years old every day and nearly one-quarter of the U.S. population aged 50 and above, the talent, expertise, and experience represented in older Americans is a vastly untapped resource that we cannot afford to ignore. That sentiment is what drives Emily Merritt, director of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities’ Intergenerational Initiatives, to focus on bringing experienced adults ages 50 and older into the Alliance’s strategic action network and also to change the way our communities think about and utilize older adult talent.
Emily joined the Alliance in August 2014 with the goal of launching the Alliance's next generation of programs and services designed to effectively engage the time and talent of older adults. She works every day to accelerate efforts to strengthen ties between generations by providing information and advice for program models, research and policy that promotes intergenerational solutions for solving communities’ toughest problems.
One of her first major initiatives is the highly successful “Second Acts for Strong Communities” – an effort to scale the encore.org model of engaging older adults in service to nonprofit child and family service organizations through the Alliance’s network of organizations. Launched nearly three years ago, the Alliance brought together a cohort of 10 member organizations from around the country with the specific goal of testing and learning from human talent models that intentionally leverage people age 50-plus in their organizations. As part of that effort, Encore.org and the Alliance also developed a groundbreaking guide for youth-serving organizations entitled “10 Steps for Engaging Adults 50+.”
According to Emily: “The long-term strategy is to raise up intergenerational success stories and best practices, motivating the Alliance network to fully realize the opportunity these individuals present to their organizations. Second actors are highly experienced, make committed members of the team, and often have expertise that helps organizations build capacity while also making excellent supports for the youth and families we serve.”
Prior to joining the Alliance, Emily served as national program manager for the Alliance-supported Ways to Work program, which helps low-income families access affordable transportation. She has worked for a number of human services organizations, including serving as Director of Education and Enrichment for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee, as Member Services Director for ElderHelp of San Diego, and Program Assistant for Americorps’ VISTA program. She received both her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.