Age-Friendly: Progress in Peterborough 2017

In follow-up to the Planet Longevity July blog post Age-Friendly: Ten Years On, 2007-2017, here it is fitting and timely that we now have in our hands to share, the Peterborough, Ontario – Age-Friendly Community Action Plan, released in June 2017. This plan summary is a wonderful piece of work, reflecting the careful and thoughtful process this community engaged in over a number of years, further supported through a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

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One of the striking things that pops out immediately in the reading is the language of inclusiveness and in particular referring to the ongoing needs of “older adults”. Full praise for the consistency of use of this term, as it lends itself to imagine a population that is broader and more diverse in nature than what that tired word seniors evokes. Language is a quirky thing. You even hear younger adults now say how tired they are, being referred to as millennials.

At the risk of creating a distraction from the positive message of the Age-Friendly movement, for a moment it is worth poking the dialogue to say that while there are those who don’t take any exception to being called a senior, there is however another newer wave of older adults out there who are less inclined to identify with that. Let future proponents of the Age-Friendly movement take note.

Though seniors is referenced in the content, which can’t be helped based on historical usage, it does not in this document take away from the underlying message of Age-Friendly. Having read and viewed a number of the Age-Friendly plans and websites, this Peterborough stands as a model example of how the language of age-friendly can connect the dots more succinctly for a wider audience.

As a comparative to Peterborough, the 2017 Oakville baseline study, referred to in my previous blog post, still leans too much on the term Seniors as opposed to older adults. As well composed as the Oakville baseline is, with recognition of the diversity of those over age 55, the mixed definer language breaks down the various older cohorts but it has a dated sound to it. Perhaps future updates, with more input from others will develop a different tone for an inter-generational conversation.

Noteworthy praise goes to Peterborough for weaving the inter-generational connections in its Age-Friendly plan (Page 35) while at the same time as recognizing the urban and rural distinctions of the greater region – and capturing the voice of the First Nations community which again is inclusive in the scope of the plan. Regionally and certainly within larger cities this cultural aspect is a significant part of the conversation that will need more attention as it fits within the eight dimensions of the 2007 WHO Age Friendly model.

Age-Friendly Peterborough is worth the download to read and learn.

 

Mark Venning

Age-Friendly: Ten Years On, 2007-2017

Some global movements start up with all the best of intentions, but not all pick up traction, nor given enough time to develop in the collective mind-share of the public. Initiatives such as Habitat for Humanity for example, which has roots going back to the mid 1970’s, stand out largely because the concept serves a basic need everyone can immediately identify with anywhere around the world; and of course gather celebrity endorsement and participation from the likes of people such as former US President Jimmy Carter.

Planet Longevity, since our beginning, continues to promote the Age-Friendly Cities initiative as first introduced by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2007. In 2015, we did a three part blog series titled Age Friendly Canada: Time for a Reboot suggesting that we still had a long way to go to elevate the awareness of what has steadily become a global movement.

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Now ten years on, (checking out the WHO Age-Friendly World website) – there are now 500 communities that have adopted this movement in 37 countries. Canada has 59 communities at various stages of development. My city, the Town of Oakville has finally nudged past the rudimentary public “survey stage” and released an initial Age-Friendly “baseline study” in January 2017 – approved by Town Council in April.

As was referenced in our October 2015 post, one of our Planet Longevity members Suzanne Cook, became a participant in two of 56 community grant projects awarded in the Ontario the Age-Friendly Community Planning Grant Program. Suzanne has served in an academic research advisory role for Cobourg and Peterborough, Ontario as these communities conducted needs assessments with an eye to develop action plans for age-friendly programs.

In the case of Peterborough, as reported in the June 23 Examiner “Age-Friendly Peterborough plan takes shape”, the process seems to have gone beyond the assessment phase and is now in front of their city council for adoption. As Trent University’s Elizabeth Russell, Faculty Fellow with the Trent Centre for Aging & Society, is quoted in the article: “…evidence… shows us that this type of planning is much more effective in the longer term…”

True enough, but taking a leaf from the book in the Habitat experience, the marketing messaging on Age-Friendly Communities could take on a sharper tone, for the basic human need for healthy active aging is relevant to all generations. Inter-generational connections is mentioned as one part of the Peterborough vision, but in order for that to happen, the language of age-friendly needs to connect the dots more succinctly than it currently does in order for the movement to grow into the next decade.

 

Mark Venning

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

Aging 2.0 Global Start-Up Search: 2017 Winner.

In follow up to last month’s post, the winner of the April 7th Global Start Up Search for the Toronto Chapter of Aging 2.0 – a local pitch event that awards an entrepreneur for the best “aging-focused start-up” was a company called Steadiwear. Their pitch was for their lead product, the Steadiglove. Under the category of wearbles, this lightweight, battery-free stabilizing glove helps reduce body tremors, as they say –intelligently.

steadigloveA wonderful Canadian innovation success story in the aging and technology space, but how interesting that this is the second product that addresses body tremor issues, to win an award within a week of each other. At the 2017 Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge pitch day finals on March 30th the first place winner was TAME – which stands for Tremor Acquisition & Minimization. TAME’s tech-based wearable products are a wristband (for tremor diagnosis) and a sleeve (tremor diagnosis and suppression).

Obviously, there is a market need for these products, as evidenced by the statistics quoted in the TAME website Vimeo: over 280 million people around the world suffer from tremors, which states Steadiwear includes people suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.

Here are some of the other aging and longevity issues that all the global pitch products, from today and tomorrow, aim at solving:

  • adaptable, accessible housing
  • mobility, in home and in transit
  • social isolation and loneliness
  • cognitive impairment, dementia
  • stress of managing caregiving

Long may these pitch events continue, as they continue to push forward technology based innovation in support of the future promise of aging well in a longevity society. At the end of May, Aging 2.0 holds its European Summit in Belgium, with two more such events over the summer in the Americas and Asia-pacific regions, will lead to the big finale in November at the Aging 2.0 Optimize event in San Francisco.

What should be the big hope come true is that eventually these pitch products land on the retail shelf before too long for everyone’s sake, caregivers included. While Aging 2.0 and organizations of its kind have similar goals – “to improve the lives of older adults”, it is not just for those who are older now, but for the older adults of tomorrow. Besides, it is not simply a matter of what age you are, but rather (as my father often said) – it is age in combination with what condition you are in that matters.

 

Mark Venning

Aging 2.0 Global Start-Up Search: Following a Winner.

For a second year now, on Friday April 7th, the Toronto Chapter of Aging 2.0 is holding its Global Start Up Search, a local pitch event that will award an entrepreneur for the best “aging-focused start-up”. This pitch event in the only Canadian city in the Aging 2.0 Network is one link in the chain of a very active, well- connected and funded market for aging and technology. All of their regional pitch events will lead to the big finale in November at the Aging 2.0 Optimize event in San Francisco.

Toronto-Aging 2.0Last year the winner was Winterlight Labs for their development of a tech-based solution that “monitors cognitive health through speech recognition”. Often you wonder how successful some of these tech start-ups are over the long term, and it is good to see how Winterlight, as an example, has matured over the last two years, out of their research work in 2015 on dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, to the contest phase to the funding phase.

Following a winner, as of January 2017, Winterlight has just received a first portion of $500K in seed funding from a life sciences investment company, Novatio Ventures. But the innovation extended family trail doesn’t end there as Winterlight will also be joining Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS in Toronto, another science based innovation centre.

All of this news is another indication of how big this marriage of science and technology is becoming, in what I like to call the emerging aging & longevity market. Of course, all of this innovation and joint venturing in this particular category gets largely lost in the wider sweeping dialogue about Canada’s 2017 “Innovation Economy” drive.

However, that is why I keep following this space in the market and present it in as many ways as possible, including this Planet Longevity blog. We do need to celebrate the start-up winners who prove their own longevity.  This year there are six start-ups featured in the Toronto pitch event.

Let’s see who comes out on top, but after poking around their stories (at least as told in their web narratives), the one story that appealed to me the most is ACEAGE. There are two angles to this tech device: the first that schedules medication and provides a component for caregiver monitoring, and the second that facilitates data collection for clinical trials. Welcome to another aid instrument in the age of telecare and telemedicine.

Can’t hardly wait for this news while another major contest is in its final stage – the Stanford Center on Longevity: Design Challenge. Maybe there is something in the April air to come – Spring Innovation Fever!

 

Mark Venning

Finding an ARTful Later Life.

Often if you are open to it, messages from the world of the arts, arts in any form, that arrive seemingly in a singular way can actually deliver simultaneous swells of self-awareness that converge into one moment without force, but more with unexpected flourish. So it has been for me, these last number of months, an encounter with messages about what I would call an Artful later life.

Perhaps this has been gathering in a subliminal way, triggered last year by a flash memory of seeing and hearing Arthur Rubenstein at 78, play piano on stage at Massey Hall in Toronto. I was 13 at that time and he went on to live until shy of age 96. Only today, I was reminded again of this, reading an Economist Feb.18th article, “Why so many artists do their most interesting work in their final years”. Of course, in some cases artists may not have known if it was their final years – yet; but it turned out to be abruptly so.

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One other recent read, underscores this notion of the Artful later life. Mad Enchantment by Ross King (2016) is the story of Claude Monet in his later life, working on his Grande Décoration, the painting of the waterlily murals for the Orangerie des Tuileries in Paris. Against the historical backdrop and unfolding drama of the early 1900’s, this is a great relating of Monet’s determined creative powers while fighting cataracts to complete his final vision from his mind’s eye.

 

 

At the same time as all this, in one my encounters in the world of the arts since last June as a Board Member for the Oakville Galleries, I have attended a number of our contemporary art exhibitions, which include until March 12, the art work of internationally known 92 year-old Etel Adnan – writer and visual artist. Over twelve of her pieces shown here are from the last three years or so.

Our most interesting work in later life?

These are only a few prominent examples of people who represent the possibilities of an ARTful later life. Today in an age of greater longevity, you can witness more people in their later years, experiencing various aspects of the arts in countless ways – renewing the hidden talent, taking it up for the first time in community centres or teaching it to others. And not by any small measure has it been recognized that engagement in the arts encourages well-being; physiologically and cognitively.

On my doorstep, in a January 2017 announcement, the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging (RIA) and the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research appointed Dr. Kate Dupuis as the Schlegel Innovation Leader in Arts and Aging. Sheridan College has a strong program in animation, arts and design, which has great synergy with the elder research centre’s projects related to the arts. It’s been a great opportunity for me to connect with and observe Sheridan in this direction over the last few years.

Curious how we say what an artist creates is – their work; and if they do it until they die, we consider it their life’s work or a body of work.  If our life’s work has not been directly in the world of the arts (musician, writer, painter, dancer, graphic designer, animator); or we haven’t been fulfilled through our amateur hours running in parallel to earning a living in the business world; you have to wonder how much of our self-expression is lost or hidden over the journey of our lives.

Is our most interesting work in later life, to be of an ARTful nature?

Postscript

As it happens through our childhood upbringing, my brother and I were gifted by our parents, with an appreciation of the arts – exposed to literature, paintings and music, every day.

My natural early gravitation was to music, though I cannot play an instrument nor read a musical score, it is however always in my head, and I did conduct a forty-piece brass band to an audience of over 200 people when I was 45. Let me see what I can orchestrate next. It might be through writing more than the strokes of a brush or the tap of a musical baton, but who knows what of the simultaneous swells of the ARTful way.

 

Mark Venning

Aging & Longevity – Global Conferences 2017.

A new year brings as usual a fresh roster of international conferences in every professional field, and of course, this is no exception for the subject of aging and longevity. Here is a short list of interesting events for the first half of 2017 with my own summary introductions. What makes these events stand out is the higher-level conversations they stimulate on a wide-ranging scope of social issues.

What continued to strike me as I searched out a number of conference offerings this year, is how much more emphasis there is on drawing attention to business development opportunities in what is more often referred to as a Longevity Economy. At first glance, this may not immediately be reflected in the titles or content of conferences listed here, but if you look at the sponsorships such as in the case of the Aging in America Conference, you will see how this is presented.

Other conferences, profession based or academic in nature more frequently look to partnerships or sponsorships with businesses, which further indicates that there is opportunity across sectors to learn more about the process of aging and meet at the intersection where products and services address the social needs of a longevity society. Taking caution here though, in the preparation of this conference list, to avoid those that are overly commercial.

We will comment and report on any outcomes that stem from these events as they unfold.

American Society on Aging: Aging in America Conference

March 20-24, 2017 – Chicago, USA

Day One leads off with a National Forum on Family Caregiving. The full 48-page program is jam packed with an extensive range of subject matter for professionals working in the field of aging. March 23 presents a daylong “Boomer Business Summit” titled The New Economy: Seizing the Longevity Opportunity

Aging Graz 2017: 9th International Symposium on Cultural Gerontology

April 27-30, 2017 – Graz, Austria

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This is a joint conference of the European and North American Network in Aging Studies. Plenary speakers only so far announced but the broad sweep of the aging narrative looks to be engaging.

 

 

AAGE 2017 – Association for Anthropology, Gerontology & the Life Course

June 8-9, 2017 – Oxford England

10th Biennial Conference. What a surprise to see the call for abstracts under the theme “Culture, Commitment & Care across the Life Course”, with reference to Margaret Meade’s 1970 book Culture and Commitment. There is an inter-generational component to this event too.

Asian Conference on Aging & Gerontology: A-Gen 2017

June 8-11, 2017 – Kobe Japan

Produced by the International Academic Forum (iafor) the theme is East Meets West: Innovation and Discovery. Read the covering introduction for a very thoughtful look at the focus on the changing cultural aspects of family and aging. Submissions still welcome.

 

 

Mark Venning

Re-think Ageing from the Old Economy Social Narrative.

For an inaugural year 2016, the National Institute on Ageing (NIA) at Ryerson University in Toronto looks to have set the stage well for its future vision. Closing with its November 24-25 conference – Re-think Ageing, the event hit the mark at a rapid pace, presenting a full range of elements in the current social narrative on ageing.

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Over two days, constructed around the four pillars in the National Seniors Strategy for Canada, the conference managed to convey the breadth and diversity of this dialogue that affects the lives of not only seniors, but the lives of entire families. 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.

Among the sizeable audience, on the opening first day which I attended, the Planet Longevity group members with me included Sandra Downey, Mary Ellen Tomlinson and Suzanne Cook, who was one of the presenters in an Idea Bank break out session titled “Social Innovation, Productive Activity & Life-long Learning”. Suzanne presented alongside two other business friends of mine – Lisa Taylor of the Challenge Factory and Adele Robertson of V Generation.

In a very compressed amount of time, Lisa Taylor shared her model around working in later life with her Legacy Careers for those 50-75+. Adele presented her personal story, which led to her retake on volunteerism and as her web site says, how V Generation coaches people on how to “rewrite the after-work playbook” as a means of staying active and engaged. Suzanne introduced her new documentary film sponsored by CERIC Redirection: Movers, Shakers & Shifters.

Idea Banks for further re-think

Here is the question that set the tone for the group discussion that followed up on their triad presentation, which was really about how our frames of reference regarding retirement has changed the way people are approaching their later life journeys as opposed to the crisp end of work life as generally experienced by previous generations:

“How should Canadian employers, education, municipalities and social entrepreneurs evolve their thinking and options for older adults to increase their participation in the labour force, volunteerism or in lifelong learning via continuing education programs?”

There is a lot of meat on the bones of that question and the presenters conveyed a very consistent and complimentary theme that to their credit, managed to stimulate a buzz in the group conversations that followed, one that struck a chord with each person as they equally took it on a personal level. Unfortunately, the set-up of the room, the size of the audience, as well as the design structure and facilitation elements did not lend to the best output.

You might say that this session was a teaser – which could have rolled into a fuller well-facilitated 2-3 hour interactive dialogue, directly with the three presenters. So in that sense as the saying goes – Lisa, Adele and Suzanne left us wanting more! While this same comment could be made for the other Idea Bank presentations that day, the NIA should be congratulated for their ambitious effort to put a lot of effort into launching a national conversation to Re-think Ageing.

As a final thought for now, on the above meaty question posed for this specific session, I think that what we need to consider on a macro scale is that our fast moving, contemporary answer to “what is a labour force?” is fundamentally different to, and thus not so compatible to the old economy and social narrative.

Let me suggest that, in reference to Lisa’s reconstruction with Legacy Careers, Adele’s “after-work” re-write and Suzanne’s Redirection for later life work – it is becoming increasingly so that people are contributing to society and the economy in many different ways, which are not necessarily measurable by traditional labour market language. Furthermore from what I observe, even if they don’t yet have the impulse to re-think ageing, it’s not only the current generation of 50-plus citizens that are looking for a life re-direction of some form.

 

Mark Venning

Career Redirection: Idea Bank @ NIA Re-think Ageing Event

On November 24th at the Re-think Ageing conference produced by the Ryerson University National Institute on Ageing (NIA), Dr. Suzanne Cook, one of our Planet Longevity thought leaders will be presenting a short introduction to her new documentary titled Redirection: Movers, Shakers and Shifters in an Idea Bank portion of a session on Social Innovation, Productive Activity & Life-long Learning.

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The documentary, funded by the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC), follows the stories of four individuals over the age of 50, and the challenges they faced in their process of career redirection and is but one component of an overall CERIC funded project. The manuscript with the specific research findings from this project will be completed over the next few months and will provide great content for further discussion within the career development field and beyond.

Quoting Suzanne again:

“The film reflects the experiences of the current generation of people age 50 and older who need and want to work … it validates their experiences. It will provide insight into issues surrounding later life work and inspire people who are struggling to find later life employment. Some individuals feel stuck regarding employment and the labour market; they are confused about what type of work to explore. These individuals need support and assistance.”

The NIA Idea bank spot, follows the first full showing of the documentary last month in Montreal at the 45th annual Canadian Association of Gerontology conference. Further plans to showcase this film include a special invite showing at the CERIC office in Toronto on November 30, 2016 and a full presentation at the CANNEXUS Career Development conference in January 2017.

Given recent media dialogue around the changing employment landscape and the so called “precarious nature of work”, this “redirection” theme, while directed with relevance to an older demographic in this documentary, in many ways holds a message for all generations, where now and into the future, learning how to redirect career paths through a longer life course will be a constant process.

Mark Venning

 

Older Persons, agents of change?

How do we see ourselves as we age, as we become older persons?

In views from an “outer world”, we could be filtered and categorized in several ways; chronologically ordered cohorts upwards from age 50.  Quite a broad spectrum, which includes centenarians. And in many cases, there is also the tendency to see older persons as a homogeneous group. The same ignorance works when we consider younger cohorts in much the same way.

Within the age-banding exercises, the documentary of the outer world-view of aging and an older persons’ identity is often refracted through a western world prism. Yet even North American and European sensibilities aren’t always the same regarding later life philosophies and lifestyle goals on an individual level. Nor at the community level are these views always the same when it comes to how we desire to construct our social structures through politics and policy.

More important for today and in tomorrow’s world; we must keep our perspectives in a constant reality check, with a much wider global view, in that we must consider that an older persons’ identity and experiences are shaped by multiple social conditions that vary by continent, country by country – some more challenging or grim than in our own western world.

Reading a recent October brief from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) tilted Leave No One Behind: Ageing, Gender and the SDGs, it really brought this whole thought to mind as a question – How do we see ourselves as we age, as we become older persons? Depending on what part of the world you are in and your socioeconomic condition, this obviously means that our views and experiences are not going to be homogeneous, even though it can be said that the actual aging process is universal.

In this UNDP brief, the global aging population is pegged at people aged 60 and older, still a broad spectrum. But seeing past the numbers here, the dialogue about the state of the world in developing countries is highlighted vividly; with older persons “in fragile settings” and “high risk for being left behind…at high vulnerability for violence, abuse, neglect….”

The subtexts in this narrative are numerous as you read this brief, and in light of all these challenges and more, the UNDP says –

“…there is an equal need to recognize older women and men as agents of change in their communities and contributors to national and regional economies.”

Later in this piece, one of the three key proposed principles for shaping policy enforces this need for –

“Promotion of a change in attitude in and towards older people as passive recipients of benefits, to active agents of change in their own lives and of those around them”.

In views from an “inner world”, how do we see ourselves as an agent of change?

Comparatively speaking in North America, in the part of the world I happen to live in, we have the capability to search that individual answer for ourselves, articulate it, engage in a shared public discourse and look for ways to contribute in our communities and economies. However sometimes I wonder if we get preoccupied or distracted by woeful tales we tell ourselves about the social strains of growing older, tales that pale beside the realities of those older persons less fortunate.

Perhaps we suffer more from not knowing how to sift through an abundance of choices we have, for ways in which we can demonstrate value and relevance, either at work or in the community and thus find our unique way in the world. So assuming we have our health and keep an agile mentality as we age, the choices are our opportunities, and through whatever process of assessment and discovery we take, the two essential guiding questions are – what change to we want to bring and how will we make a difference?

As a footnote, the reference to SDGs in the UNDP brief comes from their Sustainable Development Goals (established in 2015) for 2030. It is an ambitious menu to “transform the world” as they say. The toss out pitch for us is – identify with the issues that speak to you and find a way to individualize your experience where you want to be. Maybe if you look, there is a narrative that has woven its way through all of your life and there is no reason why it still can’t be found in the older person you are.

 

Mark Venning