Longevity & Community Care – 2

Age awareness has meaning to everyone at every life-stage, so by leading a charge advocating for community home care for older adults the question is; how are we serving our community if we don’t bring a broader range of insights to the issue? After reading Carol Goar’s Dec.9 Toronto Star article “Senior citizens are mobilizing against ageism”, it occurred to me that we need doable solutions that everyone can share in.

In my work with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto over the years, I’ve always been drawn to their ‘strength based’ approach to mentoring.  Simply put, volunteer mentors are trained to allow the child to be who they are without ‘fixing’ them or trying to make them ‘better’.  It’s about accepting them ‘as is’ and building their self-confidence. This in turn allows them to be equipped with a toolbox of life skills that (as studies confirm), serve them as they mature.

Likewise, the conversation on confronting ageism raised by organizations like Carewatch needs to be strength based. What are the skills that all segments of the population (from Gen X, to Millennials, to Boomers) bring to the table, and how can we take each groups strengths to assist those who need help. What if we made care of seniors who wish to remain in their home a community issue, not just a family or government issue?

Let’s look at ageism through a different lens by examining an inter-generational approach which would allow learning and support at all ages. If we looked at community home care as a way to build a foundation for a caring community – we would all be better together. And it’s not just about health care delivery. There are other basic living and social needs to be served with more of what we might call an “age share model”.

For example, how about having a high school student earning community hours by teaching a housebound senior computer applications that could open a new world to them? Cyber-Seniors is an example.

What if a local apartment/condo dweller who loved to garden was matched with an older homeowner who was unable to tend to their garden, and took on the task of planting and tending a vegetable or flower garden in their yard? Tyze is an example of one of those doable solutions; an inter-generational social network.

So literally – let’s look in our own backyards to find other workable options for advocating quality community care.


Sandra Downey

Longevity & Community Care – 1

Of this longevity conscious age, one could say that the grand narrative related to aging demographics has more than one story line – and how these all converge and involve everyone of all ages, does require forward thinking. Building on opportunity for this age of longevity will require respect for each age cohort in society. There is a place for everyone at every stage of life.

We formed Planet Longevity as a thought leadership panel and our vision was – put the wider conversation out there; influence, enlighten and challenge assumptions around how we all will actually adapt to the experience of aging and longevity in a foreseeable future.

If you want to change the narrative on a longevity issue that you care about, and ensure your message is listened to positively – and make a call to action for support of your cause; then you put that message up front so you don’t distract.

One of the key longevity story lines is community care. Planet Longevity wants to get out in front of that conversation and support others in their efforts to create a proactive model. But frankly speaking, we don’t think framing the story around the verbiage of ageism is helpful. It’s too easy to pluck on those strings and distract from making a positive pitch.

So when we read Carol Goar’s Dec.9 piece in the Toronto Star “Senior citizens are mobilizing against ageism.” about the group Care Watch, we could only ask, are they taking a step back with this angle in the narrative on community care?

From a marketing communications point of view, we think this distracts from what positive contributions Care Watch is able to make. Their website tagline is Advocating Quality Home & Community Care.” After that, the home page loses it impact to positively engage whatever target audiences it may have, by currently focusing their AGM message ‘Mobilizing Against Ageism”.

Care Watch could actually benefit from dusting off its brand message. Reach out with its big ask for us to help “advocate” for its real purpose, by speaking more to a greater mass – the Boomer audience, many of whom are in care-giving mode with older parents and also have children who are the future cross-generational participants in home and community care giving.

The aging demographic curve is still in motion and will be for many years to come. Our wish for Care Watch leaders, given all the ages and stages that you have lived through, is use the constructive value of your knowledge and experience to mobilize wider support.


Mark Venning & Mary Ellen Tomlinson

Inter-generational Learning, A Further Bond Explored.

Our time as a society is unprecedented in terms of our ability to develop positive opportunities for multiple generations to live, work, play and learn together. We have more forums, research and technology available for exploring these opportunities to make this a “society for all ages”.

One such forum is the upcoming 43rd annual Canadian Association on Gerontology conference Oct.16-18, 2014 in Niagara Falls. The theme title is Landscapes of Aging, which is appropriate in that it explores a wide, bountiful horizon of “emerging possibilities”.

As shared in my April 29 post, I see strengthening inter-generational bonds as one of those unique possibilities on that landscape that we dare not miss, like the rare passing of a comet. What we can learn from each other in that passing is a rich experience for everyone.

At this year’s conference, I am chairing the Saturday morning Divisional Symposium: Inter-generational Learning within Formal Educational Programs: Older Adults and Younger Students. My presentation within this is tilted Inter-generational Learning Partners: Learning through Lived Experience at the Undergraduate Level, focusing on my Sociology of Aging course developed at York University.

In this course (2013-14) eight older adults were invited into the undergraduate classroom and the students learned empirical and theoretical perspectives on aging and later life through “lived experience”. The majority of the students were in their 20’s and did not inherently have knowledge of this area of study. Both the students and the older adults regularly interacted in this university class, which is an innovative method of linking these generations.

My paper shares the experience of inter-generational learning through comments and reflections gathered throughout the academic year. A phase two expectation is to conduct a more formal rigorous research study. What makes this even more interesting is that there are many layers to consider in the perspectives of each generation, from cultural attitudes and norms, to social class and income levels.

Ultimately, through this experience and through any ongoing research, my hope is that those who participate in this kind of interaction will have challenged the negative stereotyping of each generation and achieved more awareness of the effects of ageism in daily life.

Suzanne Cook