National Institute on Ageing: Re-think Ageing Update

As an update to the November 2016, National Institute on Ageing (NIA) Re-think Ageing conference, earlier this month the NIA finally pulled together a summary, Proceedings and Event Report, which accurately describes the entire two days content presenting a full range of the elements in the current social narrative on ageing in Canada.

NIAOver two days, the conference was constructed around the four pillars in the National Seniors Strategy for Canada. One of the goals the NIA set out to achieve was to “broaden the policy dialogue on key issues by purposefully including older adults in the conversation” – that is to say others who are not directly working in the field of ageing such as academics, service providers and product developers.

Based on the success of this event, the NIA is planning a second conference in November 2017, though dates have yet to be announced. Last year, three of us from the Planet Longevity group attended and in one case presented on Day 1 of the conference, and I expect we might again. Personally speaking I hope that the massive structure of the panels and idea bank sessions will be broken down – fewer topics, smaller groups – with more time for well-facilitated conversation.

As I commented after last year, one of the benefits of attending the first NIA conference was meeting people who have a shared enthusiasm for the subject matter, in all its diversity; but the format of the breakouts did not provide enough time for quality interaction, time to confer. Having planned and orchestrated conferences over the years, the lesson is that big isn’t always better.

A supporting sponsor organization for the Ryerson University based NIA, is the International Federation on Ageing (IFA). As it happens, the IFA is holding its global conference in Toronto – August 8-10, 2018. While both these conferences, several months apart in the same city, may attract different audience segments, it will be interesting to see how different, and dare I suggest more robust the content will be for the NIA conference this November.

Given all this choice, depending on your professional interests, there is only so much specialized content you can digest and if you only have so much time and financial investment for these learning opportunities, then you need to clearly see the differentials for why you would attend one or both of these events.

In some ways, an NIA conference in November 2017 could be seen as a prelude to the August 2018 IFA event. As both organizations share the agenda on the “healthy aging” conversation for example, it would make sense to me that if the NIA is going to produce something first, then it should look for ways to present a more focused discussion on something other than healthy aging.

My suggestion for the NIA would be to do a one-day conference with the focus on the two complimentary pillars in the National Seniors Strategy – Care Closer to Home & Support for Caregivers. This issue alone is worth a deeper dive and it truly is an inter-generational concern, not merely a seniors-centric issue. Based on a recent experience designing a small inter-generational panel, I see huge potential for taking the caregiving agenda out to millennials and Gen-X for better insight, and for that matter, greater action.

Whatever the decision, I would encourage the NIA to announce their dates, theme and agenda before September. Time waits for no one and the August 2018 IFA event is tapping my interest already.

 

Mark Venning

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