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.

AFP Plan-Cover-graphic

 

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

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 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

 

Seniors? Captures a wider continuum of age.

A month away until Ontario’s 32nd annual Seniors’ Month and the 2016 theme is “Seniors Making a Difference”. Consider the fact if you will, that the word “Seniors” captures a very wide continuum of age. In some cases, depending on to whom the marketing is being directed, a so-called senior could be as early as age 55, extending to 105 or beyond. That’s a potential of fifty years of making a difference.

Seniors Month Web Eng

 

 

 

 

 

With that in mind, it makes the concept of extended lifetimes harder to decide – when does someone suddenly become a Senior?  No disrespect, but does the word senior perpetuate a stereotype or draw too rigid a definition of a segment of age in a society? Someone 55 may not identify with that word unless maybe you’re giving them a retail consumer discount. Is there a better word for an older person?

You don’t hear anyone calling Gen Y – “Juniors”. Well there is the organization Junior Achievement; let’s give you that. But even their branding is now JA Canada and the word junior has slid from the slide show.

When you think of it, when an organization like the National Institute on Ageing, (referenced in our last blog post), promotes a more up to date message, with the title for their upcoming conference being – “Rethink Ageing” – is it not time to consider a fresher approach to marketing a month dedicated to celebrating the contributions of older citizens?

Of course, the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat only tosses out a theme and offers a forum for local communities to host their own events with their own way of celebrating the month. Judging by the postings listed so far, with the 2016 province wide events starting at the end of May actually, the standard offerings range from free Seniors’ BBQ’s and Strawberry Socials, to Information sessions on community services and Seniors’ achievement awards.

Seniors and their Juniors (and often together), are making a difference all year long in their communities, some quietly, without expectation of a fanfare. In 2013, the Ontario government published its own Age-friendly Community Guide. Two of the key elements in the guide are social participation & respect and social inclusion. As we suggested last year, within these two elements, lie the benefits of having better inter-generational connections that are integral to the success of an age-friendly community.

Perhaps with a little more thought, some communities will be encouraged to look for a new line of sight for redefining Seniors, recognizing that no one can deny any one of any age, that “making a difference” is an ageless opportunity.

 

Mark Venning

Age-Friendly Canada: Time to Reboot!

Part Three

As a postscript to part two of Age-Friendly Canada: Time to Reboot, we leave off here with some general thoughts around brand messaging. The Age-Friendly concept is a growing movement and that is a good thing. Some cities globally, including in Canada, grabbed on to this early on and some more recently, and are largely hosted by local Seniors councils or groups, supported further by municipal and provincial governments. Some communities are still deliberating.

So – Age-Friendly Community. What if you are a citizen, walking the streets of your city or town and you never heard of this phrase before? You don’t know it is a global initiative launched a decade ago. How does it sound when you hear it? How does it relate to you as you actually read about it?

How would you pitch age-friendly?

Considering this WHO initiative, once explained, builds intelligently around eight key themes, as illustrated by a flower petal graphic; how would you pitch it in 50 words or less to someone of any age without any screen shots on an app or notes in your hand to prompt you? How about we start with this version in 49 words:

“An age-friendly city (community) encourages active ageing by optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age. In practical terms, an age-friendly city adapts its structures and services to be accessible to and inclusive of older people with varying needs and capacities” WHO 2007

Perhaps well said in 17 words – Bernard Isaacs, (leading Gerontology professor in the UK who died twenty years ago in 1995), was once quoted saying; “Design for the young and you exclude the old. Design for the old and you include everyone.” By this, we are to mean of course in this context – community design.

Reshape age-friendly marketing language

The first temptation for many I listen to, who live and breathe the Age-Friendly discussion, is to either get easily lost in the words of this multi-layered concept, and/or in many cases, turn it more into a Seniors-exclusive monologue, making it at first passing, potentially less resonant to that someone of any age.

At second passing, if you look at the well-intentioned messaging on many city Age-Friendly web sites, the tone of the content and the visuals supporting the brand messaging further frame the dialogue with the same Seniors monologue texture. Yet as we know, demographics are shifting, not only at the Boomer cohort level; Gen X for example is now tipping into their early 50’s and well, you know the rest.

If Age-Friendly brand messaging is going to reach more people, then the leaders and thinkers currently dedicated to the dialogue, have to look outwards to include, or at least induce a more direct line of sight to a value conversation for younger cohorts at the life stage they are at currently. A reshape of Age-Friendly marketing language is advantageous at this time – entering its second decade, to reboot the messaging and engage inter-generational voices.

After meeting and talking with people in all age cohorts about Age-Friendly over the past year, I have been encouraged, enough to say that there is more opportunity for moderating forums through stronger, targeted invitation in such a way that it matters to more people of any age.

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Worth a look lastly, one maybe not so small example at how it can be done – full respect to Age-friendly Belfast and their Intergenerational Guide and Toolkit.

 

Mark Venning

Age-Friendly Canada: Time to Reboot!

Part Two

Promoting Age-Friendly awareness in communities in Canada came closer to home these last few months, with special significance to Planet Longevity; as one of our panelists, Suzanne Cook, is now a participant in two of the recent 56 community grant projects awarded in the Ontario the Age-Friendly Community Planning Grant Program, under the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat Action Plan for Seniors.

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Suzanne will serve in an academic research advisory role in both cases – Cobourg and Peterborough; as these communities conduct needs assessments with an eye to develop an action plan for age-friendly programs, or build on existing age-friendly initiatives. Along with her passion for forward thinking on aging issues, Suzanne is a Gerontologist who also brings to the table, her expertise as a Ph.D. in Adult Education and Community Development.

With particular emphasis on the issue of affordable housing, the Cobourg based project title is “Northumberland County’s Plan for Positive Aging”. What is a common thread in so many age-friendly initiatives such as this one, is the collaborative nature of community partnerships, including individual citizens, businesses and not-for-profits; Habitat for Humanity in the Northumberland project.

Inter-generational community engagement

Suzanne Cook has great insights on positive aging and inter-generational learning as evidenced by her work at York University teaching a Sociology of Aging course, where she engaged students with older adults. In my conversation with her about these community projects, we discussed how important it is in this needs assessment process, to reach out to a broad range of people for community engagement at an inter-generational level. How and to what extent this happens in any of the 56 Ontario projects remains to be seen.

At some point, let us hope that the messaging about age-friendly, which was designed to be inclusive, doesn’t end up becoming a dialogue in a seniors-centric bubble. Here’s an idea! Let’s take the age-friendly discussion to high schools as a class project, asking teens who have grandparents how they would improve the environment for an age-friendly community. The top three classes with the best ideas gets to present to an Age-Friendly Council at a pizza party.

No question we need to consult with older citizens, who on many levels of limited access and mobility, are already experiencing first-hand the need for a community that works better for them and meets their needs. The reboot in this second decade of the global Age-Friendly movement is about the way we message the positive relevancy of it, for the generations who are fast becoming our elder caregivers and future beneficiaries of the choices we make today.
Mark Venning

Age-Friendly Canada: Time to Reboot!

Part One: Updating the Context

In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) produced the Global Age-Friendly Cities guide, the result of a two-year project that involved the participation of 33 cities around the world, including four from Canada – Halifax, Portage La Prairie, Saanich and Sherbrooke. Canada hosted the first 2006 meeting of this group in Vancouver. One of the leadership connections to this global initiative is Canadian, Louise Plouffe, who along with Alexandre Kalache from Brazil, directed the entire project from its conception in 2005.

Here we are ten years after that conception. Where are we now? On a global basis, the Age-Friendly movement has grown and over 280 communities are now active in the actual WHO network, proclaimed now as an Age-Friendly World. You can browse the directory on the site and look for the city profiles.

age-friendly-in-practice-460pxBut what of Saanich BC for example; one of the original cities in the WHO project, for some reason not in this new directory? The 2014 update on their Age-Friendly website shows one particular initiative, the “Trust Me” Project Inter-generational Dialogues, which is in harmony with our Planet Longevity theme this year around “Inter-generational Connections”. Full marks for this, we hope it is still ongoing.

In Canada, there are well over 1000 Age-Friendly projects underway and in Ontario alone this year, the Age-Friendly Community Planning Grant Program, under the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat Action Plan for Seniors, has funded $1.5 million to 56 communities to roll out projects that are to be complete by March 2017.

In Ontario, one can say that we now have some significant traction on age-friendly community planning, boosted by this modest amount of funding. The general scope of this grant is to encourage communities, who may or may not have a full grasp of the age-friendly initiative, to conduct needs assessments and evaluations for the development of age-friendly action plans for their community.

Yet most of the current communities, including some of the 56 funded this year, do not have a large organizational structure or budget, and are led by inspired volunteer community leaders and concerned citizens at large, trying to make a difference. Some have local community partnerships, information-filled web sites and promote regular community events. Some do not.

While the world is concerned about the effect of population aging, meeting the needs of an older demographic in urban environments, one way to help with the effectiveness of an age-friendly plan, is to cultivate a sensibility that this is not exclusively a dialogue for seniors. Public consultations and research in these Ontario communities over the next 18 months will ideally engage conversations with inter-generational perspectives that we are so keen to see.

This links to what is stated in the WHO Age-Friendly World site: “An age-friendly city fosters solidarity among generations within communities, facilitating social relationships and bonds between residents of all ages. Opportunities for residents from different backgrounds and demographics to interact and get to know each other facilitates community integration.”

So with this in mind, as we enter this Age-Friendly second decade – it is time for a reboot!

 

Mark Venning

Seniors’ Summer: Did Vibrancy Find You?

Even though the heat of late August for the most part continues, you can hear it, some still say – “Summer is on the wane.” But let’s not get morose. September month is one of the most beautiful of this season. Neither is it time to give up on our Planet Longevity call for celebrating a Senior’s Summer. We opened with our suggested theme “Inter-generational Opportunities: Things that Bond Us” and hopefully that’s what we explored in all our conversations.

As Suzanne Cook said in her June 30th blog post Top Five Spaces and Places for Inter-generational Relationships, we need to “encourage and cultivate non-familial inter-generational interactions.” Traveling through a few small towns and cities in Ontario over the summer, I certainly easily observed evidence that familial interactions were alive and well, but not so obvious was the non-familial. They are there, but you have to dig for them.

Looking forward to 2016, perhaps the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat can generate a more dynamic interest by adopting this inter-generational theme as I suggested in my June 18 post on creating inter-generational narrative. One key way to strengthen this is to, in some way link the conversations to the Age-Friendly community initiative.

What does it take?

Why not reach out to high schools and colleges such as Sheridan College, which has an Elder Research Centre, where seniors could actively approach student groups to develop a forum, or even run a contest for the best ideas to discuss ways we can build “vibrant inter-generational communities”.

Perhaps this is a sponsorship opportunity for any business with a service or product they are targeting to an older demographic segment, where the primary person helping to make the buying decision is actually from a younger age group. In fact, some community Councils on Aging are tagging to the Age-Friendly theme, or are designated within the World Health Organization (WHO) global Age-Friendly World movement.

The Toronto Council on Aging talks to plans for neighborhood projects that include interaction with Business Improvement Areas (BIA’s). These BIA’s in turn could involve the school systems in contests or “inter-generational forums” as suggested above. Neighbourhood networks promoting Age-Friendly initiatives must include younger people.

Seniors – Go Big!

So for next year, if Ontario Seniors groups want to pick up more vibrancy from 2015, begin now to make it a Seniors’ Summer with outward facing messaging that encourages the benefits of an inter-generational exchange of ideas. Go big!

 
Mark Venning

Top Five Spaces & Places for Inter-generational Relationships

In what ways can all generations engage and participate in a conversation and dialogue about greater longevity and a vibrant later life? An excellent start is to foster inter-generational relationships with intent, harness the power of inter-generational bonds and interactions, something that is largely untapped. Research indicates that these as perspectives, experiences and interactions are not commonly engaged in either direction – older to younger or younger to older.

One part of the Age Friendly Communities initiative needs to be to encourage and cultivate non-familial inter-generational interactions. Where are the best places to seek out inter-generational interactions?

Here are the five top places and spaces for inter-generational connections to thrive. These are through:

• volunteer and service work, as individuals from different generations contribute their time to the same cause or issue in the community

• the workplace, where individuals from different generations work, converse and solve problems together

• associations with neighbours when interacting with people living in the neighbourhood

• the broader community where individuals meet and speak with others as they engage in daily activities and daily interactions, living their lives; and

• learning and educational institutions, especially as inter-generational learning becomes more prevalent such as in the Sociology of Aging course I taught at York University

If the generations engage more readily in these five top places then the trigger questions for success are – how can dialogue and conversations be encouraged on meaningful issues of mutual concern? How can outward facing messages be stimulated that engage all ages in conversation, so that everyone benefits?

The top tip for strengthening inter-generational interactions is to encourage good listening skills. In this way, each individual will hear better across generations. Everyone is valued and respected. This is an excellent beginning and an excellent way to develop better inter-generational relationships.

It is also a great way to continue our vibrant Seniors’ Summer!

 

Suzanne Cook