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

Technology & Aging, New Horizons for Telecare

Fall Conference-Symposium season is upon us once more and in our Sept.16 post, Technology & Aging in Place: Emergent. Innovative. Viable.  we highlighted two in the Greater Toronto & Hamilton Area, one presented by the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research (October 27) and the other by Ryerson University’s National Institute on Ageing (NIA) (November 24/25).

Another major national event is in Montreal this year, the Canadian Association on Gerontology (CAG) 45th Anniversary Conference (October 20-22). Our Planet Longevity colleague Suzanne Cook presented at this annual conference in 2014 on the subject of Inter-generational Learning. Being selective on what events to invest in this year was made simple by a mere matter of geography and so Suzanne, Sandra, Mary Ellen and myself will be attending the NIA conference in Toronto.

However, upon reviewing the content and speakers at the Montreal CAG conference, it is worth highlighting one speaker in particular as it touches on a subject of great interest that matches the knowledge base of a number of us on the Planet Longevity panel.

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Sue Yeandle, Professor of Sociology, University of Sheffield in the UK, will be speaking on the topic – Connecting People and Systems: What Role for Technology in Caring & Ageing Well in Later Life? Once again, we cannot ignore the emerging role of technology as evidenced by so much of the content presented at the other events we have featured in previous posts.

If you dig further, it becomes obvious that Yeandle is a strong leader in the area of caregiving in public policy not only with a UK focus, but also at an international level. One of the other organizations she was involved with in the UK is Aktive Project, which is Advancing Knowledge of Telecare for Independence & Vitality. You can get an initial sense of how inspiring this is by watching the short video link on the home page. It demonstrates how well this brings collaborative research right down to practice in the community.

On all counts, this kind of initiative and others we can find like it will be worth following and supporting in the years to come. In Canada for one example, there is The Caregiver Network. An excellent website includes this blog post – How Technology is Changing Aging by Stephanie Erickson, which ties in with this overall theme.

One of my business advisory relationships is with Dr. Adolfo Cotter at Cognimetrix, and one of his practice areas in the US is in the delivery of telemedicine, which is a growing field and with some momentum, hopefully, telecare will soon become the companion service that will ultimately become mainstream. One thing to keep in mind when you research this area, and that is that there are variations on what telecare means and how it is presented as a service to the public.

More on Sue Yeandle and her work in future posts, but in the short run here is an article she wrote in August 2016 – Caring for our carers for the Institute for Public Policy Research in the UK. While she draws attention here to the fact that the UK, a leader in the “international carers’ movement”, has in recent years fallen behind others countries such as Canada and Australia, Yeandle calls for the UK to “retake the lead”.

Retake indeed. Perhaps the Aktive Project could retake its position, as the only disappointing thing I see is that there hasn’t been any active content development or communication on their website or Twitter feed in the past two years. This is often what happens when the good intensions of group networks slip off the radar as individual people get on to other things.

Still, Sue Yeandle leads the charge with an international focus and is working on a new book due out in 2018, currently titled Making Caring Matter: the mobilization of carers and its impact on policy making around the world. Wouldn’t it be timely if she were to appear at the International Federation on Ageing conference in Toronto in August 2018? If so, sign me up.

 

Mark Venning

Technology & Aging in Place: Emergent. Innovative. Viable.

Reminiscent of the wonderment around web technologies in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, when the internet punched its way into the mainstream, and more recently the App revolution and mobile devices, the buzz around (for what I will call) technology development for a longevity society is now, more than a trend, a serious business.

In previous Planet Longevity posts, we have commented on some major program initiatives in this category. Making a Business Pitch for AgingMay 18 for example, featured the Aging 2.0 Global Start-up contest that acknowledged and encouraged entrepreneurs to develop technology products that would serve health, wellness and assisted living needs, with particular application to direct use in home environments.

screen-shot-2016-05-03-at-10-03-06-am-300x168We are gaining momentum it would seem. Almost as if there was something, (as per a Phil Collins song) “in the air tonight”, three events over the next few months focus on this very story Technology & Aging in Place. First up is the announcement last week of the technology based, 4th-Annual Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge, this year themed – Innovating Aging in Place. This contest is open to students around the world with the award winners picked in April 2017.

centre-for-elder-research_stackedRight on my doorstep, on October 27th, I will be attending a Sheridan Centre for Elder Research half-day event – Insights About Technology & Aging in Place with Alex Mihailidis, PhD, Scientific Director at Toronto based AGE-WELL as key-note speaker. His talk is titled, Disrupting the Current Technology & Aging Landscape.  

Another session speaker is John Helliker, Director of Strategic Partnerships and the Screen Industries Research & Training Centre (SIRT) at Sheridan College. His topic is Virtual & Augmented Reality: Opportunities for individual and social change within an aging population. Our future experience of aging in place is only beginning to look interesting, imagine what we’ve got to look forward to!

NIATo cap off this round of events in Toronto is the November 24-25 conference, Re-thinking Ageing 2016 produced by the Ryerson University National Institute on Ageing. One of the workshops I will be attending is a dialogue focused on Age-Friendly Communities & Alternative Living Options, which is one of the core themes that our Planet Longevity panel promotes.  Of course, Aging in Place is one of those options.

On the second day of the conference, a workshop will discuss Accessible Home Design & Technologies to Enable Caregiving. The moderators are Jamie Shipley, Knowledge Transfer Consultant at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Donn Fenn, CEO of Caregiver Omnimedia. (On October 17, this company is also holding a well targeted Home Modification conference in Kortright, Ontario)

There is a great trigger question in the preamble note to this topic, which is worth sharing:

“What strategies can be used to overcome funding, policy and/or program barriers to achieve increased access to the enabling technologies and home modification supports for older adults and their caregivers?”

This is a hard to ignore dialogue and to be sure, some like our moderators here are ahead on the curve of change with it.

If you are looking at the home and health care funding policies of political parties in the next election in your province in Canada, you should be paying more attention. If you are a home designer, builder or realtor, you should be forming alliances with each other and share information on technology trends to advise your clients. If you are a future home seller or buyer, (heck even now), these are the kinds of questions that should be more front of mind over the next decade.

All of this may sound to some, like either a lot of hype ahead of its time, or a – Yikes, what’s this mean to me sitting in my future home, Bungalow Bill? (Again, can’t resist a song title.) But there is no getting around it; this Aging in Place dialogue is an opportunity for doing your clients a favour by enlightening them in their decision making process. This is an opportunity for individual careers and businesses in the emergent fields of design technology and viable going forward in a longevity society.

 

Mark Venning

 

Aging & A Case for Personal Advocacy – 3

As we continue to learn from our own experiences, as advocates for others in all manner of care giving, in particular here, elder care, we must be a leader of own personal advocacy team by taking charge with some specific actions with our future in mind. It’s a matter of a taking proactive actions now, through conversations with others, family and or trusted friends, rather than remain blinkered in the vision of our elder selves.

Personal advocacy is a life lesson that we do not have to learn and live on our own. The team approach Mark Venning advised in the June 17th, first post in this series, and the self-education in personal financial advocacy as Marie Howes spoke of in part two July 12, can be strengthened by other actions which will help to reassure you. At the same time, this will provide vital information to your chosen advocate(s) who will be the spokesperson for you in the event that you cannot.

Before choosing your personal advocate first in line after you, there are some opening questions to ask:

  • Will the person have time to manage in a crisis?
  • Will the person be managing your affairs with their physical presence or from a distance? Managing from a distance can be done, but needs other steps to be put in place.  For example if giving instructions by phone or Skype there will have to a witness in place for those receiving the instruction and furthermore;
  • Will the person be comfortable advocating your decisions if that choice is contrary to their personal preference or choice?

The devil’s in the details – ignore & chaos will ensue

Here is some advice on how to choose a spokesperson strong enough to advocate and follow your clearly given instructions and not simply just follow their own inclination.

Ask up front if the person you choose will take on the specific responsibility of being a Power of Attorney before entering their names in a Power of Attorney documents.  There are a number of reasons why a person, understanding the honour of this role, may have a need to refuse.

Arrange for your annual taxes to be done by an “arm’s length” person, or accountant to protect you and your Power of Attorneys to be safe from allegations of impropriety. You should also review your relationships with these people on a frequent basis to make sure you are being served well.

In one of my many educational presentations called Take the Chaos out of Crisis™, I advise getting your will up-dated as often as particular life changes occur that may cause you to rethink, (such as divorce, or one of your children gets married), and having Powers of Attorney for Property and Personal care put in writing.

Attach to your Power of Attorney for Personal Care a directive instructing your preference for care.  The instructions must be – what is legally possible, what can reasonably be done, and what will lead to positive outcomes and good quality of life. I stress that information is vital and numbers rule.

Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc has an excellent on line resource to help collect information under its Consumer Information drop box.  They call this a “Virtual Shoebox”. It is 27 pages long, so read before printing it out, since not all of the 27 pages will be pertinent to your situation.  Along with other details, include the user names and passwords for on line banking, bills, subscriptions, – and not to forget social media platforms you use. These days this could be a longer list than what space there is on this shoe box document.

Congratulations. You are now the leader in your personal advocacy team. Now with this action plan in place you have a well set out record of vital information and wonderful resource for your chosen spokespersons who by the way, may include others besides your current designated Power of Attorney. As with managing your computer system, backup is recommended.

 

Mary Ellen Tomlinson

 

Redirection: Later Life Career Project Completed!

A year in the making, Dr. Suzanne Cook, one of our Planet Longevity thought leaders, has completed her research project – Redirection: Work and Later Life Career Development, funded by the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC). As mentioned in our blog post last September, “Redirection” is Suzanne’s operative word that frames her endeavour to help shift the mind-set of individuals in later life career, as well as those who are in a professional position to help them better articulate their options.

Now you can see here the first step is the public launch in this project – the trailer, for the short documentary titled Redirection: Movers, Shakers and Shifters. On October 22nd, 2016, the first full showing of the documentary will be in Montreal at the 45th annual Canadian Association of Gerontology conference. Further plans to showcase this film through CERIC and other channels will follow.

Redirection: Movers, Shakers and Shifters follows the stories of several men and women over the age of 50, and the challenges they faced in their process of career redirection. The film is but one component of the overall CERIC funded project. The manuscript with the specific research findings from this project will be completed over the next few months, and this should provide great content for further discussion within the career development field and beyond.

Suzanne Cook is a social gerontologist and an Research Associate with York University’s Centre for Aging Research and Education. She has a deep shared interest in this subject area, joining many of us who have been working directly in the field of career development and seen first-hand, how this theme of later life careers has become more prominent over the last decade.

Career professionals work in different venues, from college, university and community based career centres, to private sector career & talent management firms and individual coaching practices with private clients. Ideally, this Redirection film will serve as a great storytelling vehicle, which could be used as part of a tool kit for career professionals in the direct work they do with clients.

One issue for career professionals, who work with clients in their later life stages, is to find the right way to position relevant language around careers. In a modern world of work, even the definition of a “labour market” is somewhat an anachronism; and a term like “older workers” still tends to feed a stigma from an old narrative. The margins have shifted in terms of how long and in what way people will choose to work in the future.

Fresh off the learning from working on this project, Suzanne comments:

“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.”
Mark Venning & Suzanne Cook

Aging & A Case for Personal Advocacy – 2

Personal advocacy as we age is a learned life skill. In these times, when our potential for greater longevity is increasing, this learning should not happen only when we are standing at a moment of crisis at a later stage of life. Perhaps we are learning the lesson in real time, if we are the ones operating as advocates for those older than we are. So how do we best become more proactive about our own protection?

To continue from our last post on this subject by Mark Venning, I want to comment as a now-retired Certified Financial Planner (C.F.P.), and a Professional Retirement Planner (R.F.P.) holder, focusing here on protection within the financial component. My concern is about the individual being self-sufficient. As Mark suggested, it is a good idea, as you find your life stage situation changing, to assess your relationship with your financial planner to make sure you are getting the best advice.

In my view, a good financial planner should be educating their clients as to the various options, appropriate to meet their client goals. The planner who offers only one solution needs to think more about what they are suggesting to clients. The options can vary.

Yet it is you, the client, who must keep your financial planner up to date with changes in your life – such as divorce, death of spouse, new grandchild.  This is the only way your planner can come up with possible scenarios for your well-being.

Just as you the individual is ultimately responsible for whatever is reported to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on a tax return, (even if a tax preparer/accountant prepared it); so too, you are ultimately responsible for your own financial realities. No one knows what you need or want better than YOU!

Personal financial advocacy, beyond self-education

The more you are self-educated, the better you will be able to evaluate the worth of the advice your financial planner is giving you. You need to know how your planner is being compensated.  If their method of compensation causes concern as you evaluate your planner’s advice, then you may need to consider finding a planner more compatible with your values. For example, know if your planner is “fee-only”, OR  “fee-based” in which case they may be licensed to sell securities such as mutual funds, life insurance, stocks and bonds, OR they may be “commission only” OR “fee and commission-based”.

Surprisingly, not everyone who works with a financial planner, whether the planner is a CFP or not, understands the differences in compensation methods.  Knowing the differences allows the client to ask important questions.  There is no fiduciary standard for “financial planners” in Canada, just a looser “best interests of the client” requirement.

However, beyond self-education you must keep your designated advocates informed of your relationships with a financial planner and other professionals such as the lawyer who drew up your will and powers of attorney. You need to let your Power of Attorney (POA), know what your general attitudes are toward various financial issues such as investment priorities and prohibitions against investing in certain businesses.

Personal advocacy, carried with trust through a POA

Your POA needs to know who your current financial planner is, so that individual can be consulted in the management of your affairs, should you be unable to speak for yourself. The same is true for Executors of your will. Your POA and Executor should also know about the family dynamics, if they are non-family members for example. There are significant numbers of people that have a non-family POA, let alone the fact that, according to a number of reports, about 50 % or more of adult Canadians do not even have a POA.

Personal advocacy is carried with trust through a POA is a huge responsibility. Here is the Government of Canada link to information on the roles and responsibilities of a Power of Attorney. While the document addresses the “older Canadian”, that is an oversight – this is a life learning of increasing importance for people in their younger years, as they will, some day, be asked to be advocates for their parents as well as for themselves down the road.

 

Marie Howes

Aging & A Case for Personal Advocacy – 1

Seniors’ Month in Ontario is at its mid-way point in June and we are encouraged this year to celebrate Seniors Making a Difference. Sadly, it only takes one or two pieces of news, like rocks thrown at a window, to shatter the glass and make us turn our heads. These are familiar hard rock crimes – elder fraud and elder abuse. One such in the news this week came from British Columbia, where a man who was a caregiver to a 91 year-old woman, stands accused of having stolen $270, 000 from her bank account.

However, I choose not at this occasion to write a dissertation on the subject. There are enough resources and news feeds that can enlighten us all as to these crimes, and that is what they are – crimes. I personally had to step in some years ago as a Power of Attorney for a woman in her mid-80’s, who had been ripped off through a telephone fraud scheme, and as I was helping her through that experience (with police involved), I reflected constantly about what a responsibility it was to be put into a position of trust.

With this in mind, I want to make the case here about how important it is, early on as you age, to adopt an alert, responsible mind-set to take on the role of personal advocacy, for yourself as well as others. This also means setting up an advocacy plan should you not at some point, for whatever reason, be able to speak for yourself. Depending on the dynamics of your relationships, family and friends, it may not always be the usual cast and crew that end up down the road being part of your sustainable plan.

Personal advocacy as a team approach

Frequent reassessment of who is in your trusted advocacy network is as important as revisiting the content of your will, your named executor and powers of attorney. It’s also a good idea to assess your relationship with your financial planner. My colleagues Mary Ellen Tomlinson and Marie Howes will have more to say about this. But I’ve seen enough in several circumstances to know that the people you might have initially asked to be part of your advocacy team, formally or informally, at some point either end up being not who they appeared to be, change their minds about their commitment , move away, or die.

There are so many unbelievable twisted story plot lines in elder abuse and thus the vulnerability of an elder person is at risk whether under the roof of the family home, or in the one room chambers of a long-term care facility. If you are the advocate for someone else, elder or otherwise, it is a monumental responsibility.

With respect for privacy information and confidentiality in mind, your consistent visibility, research, inquiry and transparency by sharing information with others about what you are doing in your role are, in my mind at least, the very essence of the personal advocacy role.

We do have all sorts of public educational resources available  in Ontario, such as  the Elder Abuse Ontario Safety Line, yet I wonder, what would it take to create a core curriculum in schools for Gerontology & Personal Advocacy for Elders, much the same way we have with sex education and other social issues?

 

Mark Venning

Aging 2.0 Global Start Up Search – Toronto Winner!

How fortuitous that in our last blog post I mentioned Winterlight Labs – as they turned out to be the award winner of the May 24th Aging 2.0 Global Start Up Search – Toronto edition. Winterlight has developed a technology-based solution that “monitors cognitive health through speech recognition”.

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These four young entrepreneur scientists bring their collaborative insights and expertise with a technology focus to help people who suffer, not only from dementia, but also for those who have other mental or cognitive health issues such as depression, stroke or autism.

For the past five years, there has been steady global development/fusion of technology and science connected to aging and longevity and, in the Greater Toronto market, we have our own players to be proud of in this field, which in large part is an untold story in the public domain.

Back in April 2012, three of us on the Planet Longevity team attended a Business of Aging Summit at the MaRS Discovery District and there met the pioneers at U of T’s TAGLab (Technologies for Aging Gracefully). We also heard Joseph Coughlin of MIT”s AgeLab speak. All of this was a real eye opener to the opportunities emerging in the technology space and how it will unfold in a practical way for a future longevity society.

Since then in 2015, AGE-WELL launched as a technology and aging network and of course US based Aging 2.0, which also endorses the Stanford Center on Longevity: Design Challenge, established its Toronto chapter. The field of aging and assistive technology has a growing list of supporters, promoters and collaborators too long to mention here, but the list includes researchers, educators, developers, business and health care networks and government and not-for profit organizations.

What is compelling about this story is that we are only beginning to see the benefits of these technologies in application today. Can you imagine how more ubiquitous this will all be within the next few years? Not to mention how much more there is to ideate and develop over the next decade; not just with assistive technologies but technologies in biology and genetics that will help improve extended lifetimes. One of Google’s 2013 spin off businesses, Calico is a prime example of this type of venture.

So congratulations to Winterlight Labs. What I would like to see is more of a broad public education campaign where the Business of Aging could perhaps be better relatable if it were to be called the Business of Aging & Longevity. So in the short run, Planet Longevity will use its platform to further endorse this Canadian story which further demonstrates that we are an innovation economy in more meaningful ways for the future of a longevity society.

 

Mark Venning