As an Advocate, How do you use Social Media

Often when I am invited to do a presentation, the person introducing me will ask the audience to turn off, or silence their cell phones.  I appreciate the courtesy, but will often reverse this request and ask people to keep their cell phones on; and, if in the course of my presentation, if inspired, to take a photo of a slide I am using, or to post/tweet on social media information they are hearing.

Now most of us these days use some form of social media, and we use these sites to share, or compare, or rant, or recommend.  And, for most of us, there are 3 major platforms that often serve this purpose - Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  Of course there is Instagram, Snapchat, and others, but the 3 mentioned seem to be the most common in my spheres.

For advocates who are looking to promote a cause or situation, it is important to understand how posting something you are hearing at a conference can have the most impact.  In the work I do, I try to use all 3, but there are some key differences we should understand in being Social Media Advocates.  That is, Facebook, which seems to be the most dominant platform, is primarily a social outlet.  This is where we mostly see what people or eating, or birthday photos of a relative, or travel photos from exotic trips.  Certainly posting something informative or instructive works on this platform, but is often lost in the social clutter.

LinkedIn is thought to be a vocational site, where people look to get job or sales leads.  Here people are posting things that promote their business or get people to know their companies or products.  Again, as advocates for some social cause we can use this platform, but again, the message might get caught in the vocational clutter.

This brings us to Twitter.  Certainly any of us reading this post know that the President of the US is a "Twitter addict," using this media most every night to advocate something or another.  Of course most of his Tweets are attacking and put people down, but are still effective in what he is advocating, which seems to be his bully-ism or bias.  For me however, the major thing I like about Twitter is that unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, which mandate that the people you connect with or "friend," agree to accept your connection, Twitter allows you to follow whomever you are interested in hearing from.  This feature, a key difference, makes Twitter, I believe, a more potent advocacy platform.

So two key take-a-ways here - one is get on Twitter and to post about that which you are passionate.  For me, as a disability advocate, I try to post on things that are progressive to the inclusion of all people movement.  The second issue, is to chose to follow those folks that inspire, educate, or share aspects that are instructive to your advocacy role.  On an upcoming blog, I will share with you some of the folks/groups I follow who share items I have found to be helpful in the cause of disability advocacy.

In the meantime, get active on Social Media and share your passions with the world!

The Road to Character

I am reading a book recently released by David Brooks titled, "The Road to Character."  Brooks is well known as a columnist and for his commentary on NPR and the Sunday talk shows.  He usually takes a conservative bent, but with this book he examines the notion of character and it has nothing to do with politics, yet in the current political climate in the United States has everything to do with politics.

He starts the book by looking at the two sides of people, one he calls the "resume side," which focuses on skills, achievements, and things you might boast about.  The other he calls the "eulogy side," which speaks more to your character, the virtues at the core, like kindness, honesty, faithfulness, and other personal dimensions.

The book then profiles some amazing people who are known more for their character, the  "eulogy side," than for their direct achievements.  Brooks explores how they developed their deep character.  Though he never once refers to our current politics, the book seems to scream out the importance of character over accomplishments, integrity over bragging, cooperation over competition.

As I digest the social impact of "The Road to Character," I salute David Brooks for bringing out this critical dimension of character in our development.  In a time when we seem to think that people's accomplishments are the things that make them great, Brooks pushes us to look deeper at people.  He reminds us that in the end it is the virtues of our character that really matter.

If your looking to find the things that really count in life, get a copy of "The Road to Character" and then think!

Being Greeted: The First Element of Belonging

In developing more social capital, the first element to consider is the greeting.  This seems so simple that people rarely consider it, but I had an experience recently that brought this critical aspect to mind.

This past month I was invited to present in Auckland, New Zealand at the Imagine Better Assembly, a forward thinking conference held every other year in that wonderful country.  Given the respect held in New Zealand for the Maori culture, the conference coordinators started the event with an official greeting called a "Powhiri." 

Now the Maori's are the indigenous inhabitants of New Zealand, and the respect held for them is deeply woven into the culture.  The "Powhiri" started with Maori tribal members performing a tradition of greeting the visitors with song, stories, and ceremony.  The tradition ended with each visitor being approached by the tribal members with a formal "hongi," where we touched foreheads and noses, and then took a breath through our noses, symbolizing the fact that we are breathing the same air together.

This ceremony was so profound that it brought tears to my eyes.  To have that kind of greeting, symbolic or otherwise, was deeply touching.  The "hongi" signals a strong respect for the newcomer, and in a simple, yet elegant way, says you are welcomed in my space.

So the next time you encounter a newcomer, regardless of where this might be, think about how you greet them.  More, go out of your way to personally seek out these people you do not know and welcome them into your space.  You might not perform a "hongi" and touch foreheads and noses, but in a way are still breathing the same air.

Someone to Love

Most of you who look at my blog know that our work in disability rights focuses on the importance of relationships and social capital.  We have worked hard to explore this concept, study, create strategies, share ideas, and promote that rehabilitation would be better off to consider the critical nature of social capital.

Part of the challenge in promoting this message, however, is that there is (was) no credible evidence that showed that social isolation was a serious problem in the disability community.  Certainly advocates, family members, and many self-advocates know that loneliness abounds, but the notion had never been adequately examined.  This reality prompted the development of an international coalition we titled, The Interdependence Network, ( and a focused effort to measure community engagement patterns of people with disabilities.  Using the "Social Capital Benchmarking Survey," developed at Harvard University by Dr. Robert Putnam, we set out to examine this issue.

I am happy to report to you that our work has completed and we have just published our paper in the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies,  The article is titled: "Somewhere to Live, Something to Do, Someone to Love: Examining Levels and Sources of Social Capital Among People with Disabilities."    You can track this paper at: but it shows conclusively how isolated people with disabilities have become.  In spite of all the excellent work done by agencies and human service providers, the very people we serve are significantly socially isolated.

We are excited that this paper now sets the ground work for the challenging effort of shifting services from micro to macro efforts designed to help people build more relationships in the community, and especially between people with and without disabilities.  So if you have the time, or inclination, take a look at this groundbreaking article and then let me know what you think.  Better yet, join the Interdependence Network and help us promote macro change.  Together, we can change the world.

Facts are Facts

It is unbelievable that in today's world we could even hear someone talk about "alternative facts," let alone from the Oval office.  Most sane people know that the facts are just that, things that are truisms on an issue that is being debated or discussed.  Facts then, should guide a thoughtful and forward thinking society to address or make progress on things that affect us and are important.

I was taken aback recently when I read some facts on social isolation, an issue that I care about in the work we do at our organization, CLASS (www,  One of these facts was reported late last year in the NY Times that since 1980's the percentage of American adults who say they are lonely doubled from 20% in 1985 to 40% of people in 2015.  This increase in loneliness is incredibly troubling in a time when we have so many outlets to develop and nurture our relationships.

The second fact, however is even more intense as we now have a better understanding of what loneliness actually does.  Research has shown that isolated people have an increase in: disrupted sleep patterns, altered immune system, higher stress hormones, increased heart disease by 29%, stroke increases by 32%, and a 30% higher risk of dying within a 7 year window.

We know that social isolation is bad for us, and no altered facts can change this phenomena.  To this end, a civil and compassionate society must not just realize these facts, but to do something about it.  Social isolation is worse than smoking and it is time for some national actions designed to address this public health risk.

A Manual For Organizing

Last year, I wrote a book I titled, "The Macro Change Handbook" (LAPublications, 2015).  It was an exploration of organizing and advocating principles pulled from my 45 years in the disability rights movement.  The book looked at not just organizing principles, but examined the elements of power, change, and methods that can promote influencing others.

When I wrote this book, I could never have imagined that the notion of organizing, advocacy, marches, petitions, and other methods of resistance would become mainstream issues; but given the realities we are experiencing today in the United States, where basic human rights and dignities would come under direct assault by our own President, have now made my book almost a must read.

It is sad that this has unfolded in a country where advocates had to fight for civil, disability, women, environmental, and human rights.  All of these movements used advocacy and organizing principles and were successful in helping to create a more just society.  Yet it has and is a reality.

So advocates, and especially you folks who are new to movements, you might want to take a look at the "Macro Change Handbook."  You can track it on my website, at, or at Amazon.  Remember that an organized group will surely be a more successful group.

Change - What Does It Take

I chose a career in Human Services because I wanted to help people be more included in the greater community.  Growing up I witnessed how people treated my cousin Carrie, who had Downs Syndrome, and although she was a natural part of our family, often the greater community members treated her in negative and distantiated ways.  These negative behaviors prompted me into the field.

When I started graduate school of social work at the University of Pittsburgh we talked about being "change agents," and I took the moniker to heart.  Initially, I was taught that the change that was needed for Carrie to be accepted rested more with how she functioned and behaved.   The manifestations of her Downs Syndrome suggested that she needed to learn things to behave more "normally" to fit into the community.

After years of trying this route it became clear to me that the change that was needed did not lie with Carrie, but rested more in the behaviors of the greater community.  This kind of change, we call "macro change," is much more challenging and hard to realize.  It demands a shift in thinking, and moving outside of the box.

This kind of change also starts with an external recognition that seems to defy that which seems clear.  It is captured in a quote I recently saw attributed to Henry Ford.  He said: "The light bulb was not the result of continuous improvement of the candle."  This quote suggests that meaningful change might requires that we move to another platform.

Einstein famously said: "The problems we face today can not be solved with the same level of thinking that created them."  Both of these quotes suggest a paradigm shift from what seems obvious to a better, more evolved place.  People in the greater community see disabilities as the problem, when, in fact, the real problem might be their attitudes.

So the next time you are looking at a problem that needs solved, or a change that needs to occur, look again.  It might be that the solution lie in another place.

Generations - Differences and Similarities

One of my colleagues at CLASS ( attended a recent webinar that explored the unique elements of the various generations, starting with Baby Boomers (1946-1965), the Generation X (1966-1976), Generation Y Millennials (1977-1994), and Generation Z (1995-2012).  The training was to help supervisors understand the generations so that they can provide more informed supervision.

She shared what she was exposed to at our recent Leadership team meeting and I was taken by the information and approach that was shared at the webinar.  The presenters talked about the key things that these generations were exposed to while growing up, and some of the important elements that these generations value.  Some, like Boomers value loyalty, and others. like Millennials, see their private time as important.

The focus of the training was that supervisors could use the elements that staff value to better guide their work; and obviously there is merit to notion.  Still, for me, what was interesting was to explore the common areas of value for each of the 4 generations.  What was common for all the groups was the importance of relationships - that is, regardless of when you were born, or what the key influences of the times, relationships stayed constant.

This is further evidence of the power and potency of social capital.  No matter the swings of war, or peace, or what was happening on the home front, or in in the media; friendships/relationships/connections with other people matter greatly.  Trends come and go, but somethings are constant.

Everyday Leadership

I have been invited to keynote an upcoming conference in Toronto and the topic they want me to address is"leadership."  The group gathering are all upper level folks involved in human services and disability issues and they want to explore ways/means to lead change.  These thoughtful executives are all interested in shifting their program efforts from the classic "micro" focus, to a bigger, more "macro" sense of culture and community change.  It is an area I have been exploring in our work at CLASS ( and my Canadian friends feel an exchange of ideas would be helpful.

Now most of my adult life, both vocationally as well as being a member of many community groups, I have ultimately found myself in leadership positions.  I was program director when I first started at CLASS in 1973, and became the CEO in 1991.  I have held leadership roles in the PTG when our kids were in school, founder and Commissioner of the Human Service Volleyball League, President of most of the Boards of Directors I have served on, Chair of state-wide advisory groups and the like.  I am a student of leadership, reading most of the key books/journal articles/blogs on the topic, and I teach leadership issues at the School of Health and Rehab Science at the University of Pittsburgh.

As I initiated my preparation for our Toronto conference, however, I began to broaden my perspective.  Most people think of leadership as something others do, people who are in charge, or have been elected or selected to lead, and that if you are not in these roles, there is not much that leadership training/reflection can do for you.  But in relooking at the key aspects, this is an erroneous perspective.

All of us, no matter our role or position, can benefit from thinking more about leadership ingredients, or traits; and, if we apply them to everyday life situations, we can be more effective and successful.  Think about these aspects of leadership, reported in a recent edition of the Harvard Business Review, but apply them to any situation you are currently dealing with in your life today:

Good leaders show "learning agility," that is they apply actions from lessons learned.  Good leaders "build and sustain important relationships."  They know the potency of social capital. Good leaders are "realistically optimistic," that is they know ultimate success happens in achievable increments.  Good leaders have a "caring nature."  Good leaders think about being a "host" rather than a "hero."  Lastly, good leaders "listen as much (or more) than they talk."

These aspects are not reserved for the elite, or upper level players - they are all aspects that can make everyday life better, no matter your position or issue.  So, the next time you see something in the paper, or on the bookshelf, or online regarding leadership, take a good look at it.  The information will probably be as important to "everyday leaders" as to the big CEO's or Presidents!

Neighbors - A Measure of Engagement

The holidays are now behind us and if you are like me you probably had opportunity to visit with neighbors and friends in either your or their homes.  These patterns, certainly accelerated during the holidays, got me to thinking about the notion of neighbors and community engagement.

Sociologists, most notably Harvard's Robert Putnam, have examined neighbor relations to ascertain how engaged people might be, and in the extensive Saguaro Seminar reported their findings.  The Harvard team interviewed over 30,000 Americans and asked a number of questions including ones like: "How many neighbors names do you know," or "Have you ever been in a neighbors home," or "Have you ever had a neighbor in your home."  They discovered that the more engaged people had stronger relationships with neighbors.

To this end, I wonder how your neighbor relations are?  Do you know your neighbor's names - or more, have you ever been in a neighbor's home, or had them in your home?  These simple notions are important in understanding social capital and community engagement. More, maybe you can make more effort to get to know your neighbors.  These efforts, according to Robert Putnam and other sociologists, enhance our culture and help build a better community.

Condeluci Hill: How Settings Matter

When I have the opportunity to share ideas about building social capital I often harken back to my upbringing on "Condeluci Hill."  Most folks who know me know that I grew up (and still live) on our family "hill" in McKees Rocks, just outside of Pittsburgh.  Our family has been on the hill going back to when my grandfather came over from Italy in 1915.  They settled in the Pittsburgh area because of relatives that came to America a couple years before.

When I was born on the hill, there were 8 Condeluci families who lived up there.  Today there are 11 families either on, or coming up to the hill.  Growing up on this hill was an amazing start to life.  As with any "tribe" all of us were automatically accepted and respected, regardless of our skills, abilities, or functionality.  It was a setting of unconditional acceptance and love.

As a cultural setting though, there were certain aspects and behaviors we were expected to carry out or comply with in daily interaction.  All of us children were expected to follow the rituals of the hill, position ourselves in deference to our elders, and learn key words (jargon) of the Southern Italian dialect.  This included many Italian words that described situations, or circumstances.  We were expected to behave with respect, love, being kind, forgiving, recognizing our blessings and giving back to our family.  These were all lessons from the "hill."

As I reflect now on these early years I am taken by the rules of the cultural settings that become important in community building.  When a newcomer to a community begins to incorporate the expected rituals, behaviors, patterns and jargon of the setting they are attempting to enter, they become more easily assimilated.  These are important lessons we can use when we are helping others become accepted in our communities.

So the next time you are in one of your regular settings, take a minute to consider the rituals, behaviors, patterns and jargon that you are aware of or use as a member.  As simple as these things are, they become critical pieces of cultural acceptance.

Art and Creativity

My dear sister, Cathy (we call her Aunt Cat) decided to winter this year in Gulfport FL.  She chose Gulfport because her daughter, my niece Suzanne moved there a couple years ago to open an art gallery to highlight the work she and her husband, August Vernon are doing.

So, while in FL recently I made some time to visit Cat, and Suzanne, and to tour the art colony that is Gulfport.  We had a great breakfast at Stella's, then walked the main street and took in the sights and sounds that is Gulfport.  It is a very cool artist destination with a number of galleries, street art, clubs with great music, and excellent restaurants.

For me however, one of the highlights was spending some time at the August Vernon Studio.  One side of the studio highlights the work done by August, incredible paintings all, each one having a story behind it.  They chronical places they have lived and people who have touched their lives.

The other side displays the work of my niece, Suzanne (  She is accomplished in a number of medians, but her current work is in mosaics.  She has incredible pieces, of various sizes and designs, along with jewelry and crafts that are amazing. You need to check out her website!

As I left Gulfport, I thought about the "right brain" skills that artists like Suzanne and August have and how important creativity and art is for all of us.  I am so glad there are creative people like Suzanne, who through her work, stimulate our right brain elements and push us into a more creative zone. 

So the next time you see a local art gallery, stop by and take in the work.  Better, find a piece that speaks to you and buy it.  You will not only be supporting an important artist, but will have a "right brain" reminder that might just push you to a new creative zone.

Right/Left Brain Dominance

Neuroscience has now articulated that our two temporal lobes (Right side/Left side) control very different aspects in our behavior and personalities.  It is now known that our Left side is the more structured, organized, and controlled aspects of our behavior.  People dominant on the Left side are much more statistically focused, they make lists, are more logical, precise, and cautious in how they engage the world.

Conversely, people dominant on the Right side are much more macro in how they see the world.  They are more intuitive, instinctive, and driven by their gut feelings.  They are said to have a greater sense of emotional intelligence, are more social and interpersonal in how they relate to others. Music, art, and stories are influential and often carry the day.

Now for most, we are balanced in these 2 spheres of influence, but can lean left or right based on how we see and relate to the world.  We might have some of our bent one way or the other, but by and large, show a little bit of each personality sets of these frames.

One simple way you can get a sense of which side you favor is to clasp your hands, with fingers intersected.  Do this 4 or 5 times quickly and then keep your fingers intersected and observe which thumb is on top.  If it is your left thumb, then you would tend to be right brained.  If it is your right thumb, you are probably left brained. 

Certainly, those of us who are interested in social change should think more about these bents. When we related to others we should organize are approach by utilizing both right and left brain variables.  For example, when I have opportunity to share ideas in presentations, I work hard to share information in ways that might appeal to both groups.  That is, I will use statistics on some issues to cater to the left brainers, but then add a story or two to appeal to the right brainers.

So what side of the brain seems to be your bent, and how might you look to enhance the other, less dominate side so you can relate in a positive way to either side of this equation.

Social Capital Models

In the research done in the area of social capital (relationships) it is clear that connections with other people do good things for us.  Relationships are associated with better health, more happiness, advancement, achievement, better self confidence and even life expectancy.  With all these good outcomes, the natural question is how might you and I develop and enhance more relationships in our lives.

Although there are no exact formulas, we know that there are a couple variables that do matter.  One is finding similarities in interests and then discovering settings where people gather on a regular basis around these similar interests.  In this example, just regularity of exchange can be a critical factor.  Another important variable is the communication patterns people use to enhance the initial connection.

One other thought in this process is to observe other successful people.  We all know folks in our circles who seem to always be popular.  In discovering socially successful folks we might want to observe these "social capital models" and look for things that they do that seem to make them popular.  Notice how these people carry themselves, how they communicate, how they relate to others.

They say that social mimicry is the greatest form of flattery.  By emulating these social successful people not only might you enhance your social skills, but you will also be flattering some important people in your circles.

Quotes and Life

From time to time on this blog, I like to share quotes that I have found that can get us to think.  As many of you know, I use quotes regularly in talks I do, and in the writing that I share.  I love the impact that a quote can make, and so I have pulled some recent finds for you to reflect on.

"Always desire to learn something useful"   Sophocles

"The more a man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large"     Confuscius

"In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can"     Kazantzakis

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope and confidence"     Keller

"Of all the things which wisdom provides to make us entirely happy, much of the greatest is the possession of friendship"     Epicurus

"In the end we are all separate. Our stories, no matter how similar, come to a fork and diverge. We are drawn to each other because of our similarities, but it is our differences we must learn to respect"     VonGoeth

"The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best"     Epictetus

"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will really be happy are those who have sought and found how to serve"   Schweitzer

"Life is made up of small comings and goings.  And for everything a man takes with him, there is something he must leave behind"     Rausher

Thanks for taking a minute to read this blog.  I hope these quotes might get you to think a bit more about your own life, and more, how your life touches the lives of others.

Oxytocin - All the Good Things It Brings

We all know that relationships, social connections, and social capital are good for us and that we benefit greatly from these friendships, but often don't know the essence of this value.  If you dig a bit deeper however, you will find that at the core of this value is the hormone, Oxytocin.  As I try to learn more about social capital it is clear to me that through our social capital we benefit from the positive effects is Oxytocin.  So, just what does this hormone do.

Oxytocin evokes feelings of contentment, reduces anxiety and enhances security.  It heightens social recognition and promotes a sense of pair-bonding.  We know that trust is increased by oxytocin, and trust is one of the core variables in our covenant relationship zone.

A recent study by Dr. Marazziti found that positive social interactions may directly influence health by lessening inflammation and allowing a better sense of healing.  This further corroborates the medicinal effect of social capital.

Even the simple process of hugging releases oxytocin, enhancing the feelings we have for the person we are hugging.  But more, just being with people in a social situation, sharing conversation, exploring new things induces oxytocin.  Even singing together has this positive effect.

So, as you think about your relationships, know that there is a chemical foundation that enhances these relationships.  To this end I recommend that we hug more, sing more, relate more with those people around us.  In the end we are better for these relationships.

Tribal Theory - Do We Belong

Often when I do talks on community and social capital I will sometimes liken them to the notion of tribes.  Most of us have some sense of what a "tribe" might mean so I thought this would be a good blog topic.

Merriam-Webster defines tribe as a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations together with slaves, dependents, or adopted strangers; a political division of the Roman people originally representing one of the three original tribes of ancient Rome. defines tribe as; any aggregate of people united by ties of descent from a common ancestor, community of customs and traditions, adherence to the same leaders, etc... The elders then impart to him the customs and traditions of the tribe. has it as: a unit of sociopolitical organization consisting of a number of families, clans, or other groups who share a common ancestry and culture and among whom leadership is typically neither formalized nor permanent.

If you "google" the word, tribe, you will find these definitions and others, but all these definitions look at tribes as a network of people who share a deep and common bond through some frame of regularity.  We often think of the Native American tribes, or the 7 tribes of Israel in a formal sense, but in reality we are all members of a number of different "tribes."

More recently 2 very popular books have come out with Tribes in the title, and have pushed us a bit to think about the realities of tribes.  One was released a couple years ago by the social commentator, Seth Godin.  He suggests that groups of people can be turned into a tribe by a shared interest, especially one that is passionate.

The newest book on Tribes is by the real-life novelist, Sebastian Junger, of "A Perfect Storm" fame.  His book, "Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging," looks at the realities of the returning veteran to civilian life.  He frames the military tribe and speaks to the struggles veterans have in rejoining civilian society.  His strong opinion swirls around the individuality of civilian life and the fact that tribes, similar to the military tribe, are far and few between. He suggests that modern society in the US has given us unimaginable autonomy and material bounty, but deprives us of a real sense of community and interdependence.

All of this is interesting and useful, but there is no questions that we humans need to be part of a tribe, and when we join, good things happen to us.  We feel a sense of purpose, and camaraderie, and can frame our self-image around that of the tribe.  We all need a sense of belonging and connections and tribes present this.

So, what tribes are you a member of, or more, what new tribes might you reach out to join?

Habits That Lead To A Better Life

I was invited to do a guest lecture for an "Organizational Theory" class at the University of Pittsburgh.  In fact, it is a class I had taught for some 12 years, but gave up 2 years ago do to my crazy schedule.  I enjoyed teaching this class over the years and as I was preparing for the lecture I went back to my original notes.  As I looked at the content, my information from Steven Covey's 7 habits caught my eye, and pushed me to refresh my thinking.

I am sure that anyone reading this blog is familiar with Covey's 7 habits, but what you might not know if that years after the publication of his best selling book, he refreshed his thinking and added an 8th Habit.  In fact, it was the anchor for his follow-up book of the same title.

For this blog I thought it would be instructive to review his 8 habits and ask you to think about these as well.  Know that in Covey's thesis, these 8 habits are highly personal and his suggestion is that we think about them in our own daily matters.  They are time tested (his original book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People" was published in 1990) and should be a review for some, perhaps new for others.  They are:

1. Be Proactive - don't wait, act on what you need to do.

2. Begin with the end in mind - Start any journey thinking about what you hope to accomplish.

3. Put first things first - always take care of the things that matter most, first.

4. Think win-win - in all your dealings look for both parties to gain.

5. Seek first to understand - listen closely to what others say and try to understand their point.

6. Synergize - try to mesh with that which is present.

7. Sharpen the saw - continue to do work that will help you grow.

8. Find your voice, and help others find theirs - Speak out and help empower others.

These 8 habits are not as easy as they might seem.  To live your life, and to relate to others in a way that values theirs is at the core of these habits.  They are good things for people, and for organizations to consider.

Social Isolation and Seniors

Along with all the work I have done for many years as a disability advocate, another hat I wear is as president of the Southwestern PA Partnership on Aging (SWPPA).  Our group is an all volunteer led, nonprofit organization, that is the premiere advocacy group on aging and senior issues.  In this role I am always looking to learn more about aging issues, and how SWPPA can address the big issues of the day.

This passion is embodied by our current "Age Friendly Community" initiative which uses the World Health Organization's (WHO) 8 key domains to analyze a communities openness and willingness to include and welcome seniors.  One of the 8 benchmarks is "Respect and Inclusion,"which given my academic interest in social capital, is really important to me.

This gets me to the recent report, "Older Americans, 2016" that I had a chance to review recently, and suggests a larger challenge of social isolation of elders than we might have previously thought.  The report shows some interesting trends that suggest a real isolation of elders, and especially older women.  Consider these findings:

* At every age older men are far more likely to be married than older women

* About three-quarters of men, ages 65-74, are married, compared to 58% of same aged women

* The proportion of men who are married at 75-84 doesn't decline, but for women, drops to 42%

* Men are much more likely to remarry than women

* Among people over 75, 23% of men live alone, with women it is twice as high.

* 8% of married elders are poor, with unmarried men it is 20% and for unmarried women, 27%

This report and data suggest that older persons are at greater risk of isolation and we know that isolation is a terrible thing.  Robert Putnam of Harvard University suggested in his 2000 book, "Bowling Alone," that as many Americans die annually from social isolation, as from all smoke related disease and illnesses.  This is a sobering statistic that should push us all to look at ways and means to keep all people, but especially those vulnerable from age and disability, as socially connected as possible.  Respect and Inclusion must be up top on our list.

How Could This Be?

I just returned home from 3 days of training I conducted in Ottawa and Toronto Canada.  Over the years I have spent a fair amount of time in Canada, doing trainings or speaking at conferences in every province in that beautiful country.  I always find my Canadian friends to be open, forward thinking, and gentle.  Like always, this was a good trip.

Every time I go to Canada, my friends there are always interested in the latest trends in the US and we usually have lively conversations.  This trip was no different with great interest in the US presidential race.  However, the core of this interest was in how America could be so far off the mark with one of our major candidates.  They could not understand how a loud, brash bully could have gotten so far in American politics.  They wondered how US citizens could stand for the misogyny and apparent sexual intimidation of women.  As disability advocates they were abhorred when they saw this candidate mock people with disabilities  They wondered about the isolationist perspective, and obvious racist innuendos of this candidate and how Americans could fall for this hateful message.

I felt very embarrassed and without any defense.  I meekly suggested that perhaps his followers were looking past his character and hoping that the policies were more important than his lack of civility.  "How could this be," they asked me, and I really didn't have an answer.  I not only felt embarrassed, but sad for our country that such a misguided candidate could have gotten this far in a nation that purports to value all people.  Where a presidential candidate for a major political party could threaten to jail his opponent if he gets elected.

I know that policy differences are important to some people, but it seems to me that civility trumps policy. This trip broadened my resolve to encourage as many thinking people in my world to vote on Nov 8, and insure that regardless of policy issues, we never elect a demagogue who only cares about himself and his businesses from representing all that is good about the nature of America.