Building bridges

Mayor Dewey Bartlett on increasing intergenerational awareness



Mayor Dewey Bartlett addresses attendees of the Oct. 10 “Across the Generations” summit, which brought nationally recognized speakers and Tulsans together to discuss changing demographics in the city.

Some were just beginning to learn about the difficulties of aging, while others were just beginning to learn how to walk and talk. But all were there for Tulsa’s first-ever “Across the Generations” summit, held in October at the Tulsa Convention Center.

The event included nationally recognized speakers, who shared ideas from around the world on addressing changing demographics. With their guidance, hundreds of Tulsans came together to listen, talk and create blueprints for bridges of understanding and respect among all generations and to discuss ideas for the city’s aging population.

In addition to the many local sponsors participating in the project, Legacy Community Building — a big-picture project for all ages — spearheaded the initiative.

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett says creating these bridges today is a necessity for the future. Why? By 2030, one in every five Americans will be 65 or older.

The summit’s ideas now form the foundation for an ongoing Intergenerational Commission for the city of Tulsa. Through it, Bartlett says he hopes to see Tulsa become a national model when facing intergenerational issues.


"Baby boomers are living much longer than preceding generations. The Tulsa area has more than 45,000 citizens over 65 years of age, with thousands more added each year. Our recent census shows our population is not growing, meaning that while those living here are growing older, we are not adding an equal amount to the younger population. Baby Boomers more than likely will require a lot of support as they grow older, which will put a strain on caregivers to make certain that our older generation is cared for. That being said, the baby boomer population is generally healthier and has higher levels of education than past elders. They will want to remain involved and will be seeking opportunities to learn new things and give back to their communities since they volunteer at higher rates than past generations of the same age.

"We need to bring all generations together to discover how we can turn challenges of an aging population into opportunities and make each other aware of the other generations’ capabilities. When we do that, then a lot of good information will be passed around. The ultimate goal of our Across the Generations initiative is to have a thriving, vibrant city that recognizes, respects and meets the needs of all ages and brings generations together in support of one another.

"… If we as a community get more involved by communicating with other generations, as well as supporting and understanding other generations, we’ll be that much further down the road in being able to meet the demands that will be required of my generation as well as the generations behind us.

"… (At the summit), we identified five families in Tulsa that have been here many generations. We applauded and awarded their desire to, first of all, begin their family life in Tulsa but also their decision to grow their own families and remain in Tulsa. We want to continue to focus on that positive aspect of being in Tulsa — to stay and be educated, get a job, a career and start their own families here. 

"… We are forming a board that will continue the effort to remind us of the need to communicate and work together, whether that be for housing, for recreation, for amusement or whatever it might be — to celebrate family life and to celebrate (a family’s) commitment to stay in Tulsa for many more generations.

"That, to me, was one of the most important things to recognize and celebrate. … If we continue to have a commitment to the city of Tulsa and to all generations of our families at the same time, that will solidify our future."

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August 2019

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