Why Not Call for a National Longevity Strategy.

You could say that we in Canada are now, either speaking up more loudly, or finally catching up with the rest of the world around discussing the effect of aging demographics on our social policies and structures. Many countries have led before us with a more fully developed national conversation and subsequent revisions to their social policies that address the obvious changes required to health care, pension reform and workforce development.

While there has been enough, other prickly world news to occupy our mind share over this past few years, in the last several months, quietly but steadily there have been more calls from various groups, government bodies and concerned individuals, that Canada must develop a National Seniors Strategy.

Senate_reportAs a prime example, in June 2017, Senate Canada published a report by their Standing Committee on National Finance on Canada’s Aging Population – titled Getting Ready: For a new generation of active seniors. This tidy 24-page report sets a platform for an intelligent and inclusive discussion that could be facilitated anywhere across the country, an invitation to all age groups I might stress, rather than one narrowly designed for a seniors only audience.

Certainly, there is well-articulated content in this document, but rather than recite the statistics and recommendations here, I suggest you read it for yourself. However there are a few comments worth noting that will help frame how we should open our minds before we get into any dialogue that would potentially lead us down a path of opinionated responses based on “what was” thinking, but rather lead us to constructive possibility thinking, the “what now, how now?”

In the “reflect thoughtfully first” category, let me pluck out some significant lines from the Senate Canada report:

  • Repercussions of population aging are as much social at they are economic in nature
  • Population aging is not a uniform phenomenon
  • There are groups…more vulnerable within the larger group we call seniors. When we treat this population as homogeneous, we tend to neglect the sometimes more precarious situation of certain groups…

It is an understatement to say that Canada is geographically a huge country, more culturally diverse, with regional social and economic differences and now we can add to that layering – demographic differences.

There are several, simple info-graphics in the report that help spell out the uneven nature of aging across Canada, and as Laurent Martel states in the report, “when considering demographics, the national trend often hides regional differences… important to consider when assessing the public policy implications of such demographics… such regional differences are also currently increasing.”

All this makes for an interesting ride, if we are to take a National Seniors Strategy on a road show dialogue around the country.  Not to be a pessimist, I’m having a hard time imagining who would facilitate such an event without it becoming another series of heated town-hall arguments, and poorly advertised grass-roots public consultations that only lead to another dry series of studies and reports. This can’t be just another insider forum of politicians, academics and policy makers.

Motion 106 & Demand a Plan

At the same time as the Senate Canada effort, in May 2017, in the House of Commons, MP Marc Serré’s private members’ Motion 106, was passed, asking to create a study to develop a National Seniors Strategy. Is he talking with the Senate right now? The Canadian Medical Association is backing all this too, as evidenced by their participation in the Senate report and the Demand a Plan movement on their website.

No one entity owns this turf on this subject. There is the National Seniors Strategy group, promoting this with its own framework, has been around since 2013; and the National Institute on Aging at Ryerson – which held a conference in November 2016 – has supported this initiative.

Others entities such as another decade-old Canadian government creation, the National Seniors Council, and CARP have chimed in with their various takes on this for years. However, maybe it is time, while we consider our regional complexities, we should remember the input from those now in their 40’s and 50’s who we will inherit the outcomes of any national strategy decisions. Their “out there” future likely will require more frequent recalibrations than we’ve had before.

Yet on we go, still framing the future within yesterday’s terms of reference and points of view. Without changing the language that highly changeable future realities will demand of new generations, we may lose the engagement of people who don’t see themselves in a demographic box called seniors any time soon, even though they realize they will have to have some strategy.

The Senate Canada report says, get ready “for a new generation of active seniors”. If that further suggests that senior-hood, is not a uniform phenomenon, and life expectancy is stretching from what we’ve known – then maybe what we could really call for is a National Longevity Strategy.

My hunch is that this might catch more ideas from people well under that mythic 65, who are sometimes uncomfortably aware that they will be living, learning and working longer – and differently, which will prompt them to think harder about appropriate policy changes in any national strategy that will benefit them up the road.

 

Mark Venning

Making a Business Pitch for Aging. Right here in Toronto!

Who says aging isn’t a business opportunity? Not the folks at Aging 2.0.

PrintOn Tuesday evening May 24th the Toronto Chapter of Aging 2.0 is holding its Global Start Up Search, a local pitch event that will award an entrepreneur in what they call the aging focused business category. Other chapters are holding pitch events in Berlin May 23rd and further in places like Barcelona, Beijing, London, Phoenix and Baltimore. These and others over the summer will lead to the finals in the Aging 2.0 Optimize conference in October 2016.

If you look at some of the emerging businesses in this category, you will see how obviously rooted the product development is in new technologies. For example take Winterlight Labs that has built technology which “in the dead of night…can quickly and accurately detect cognitive impairment from a sample of speech”. Poking around the links to start-up participants in other Aging 2.0 global event sites it becomes abundantly clear that going forward as we age, we are going to be all Apped-up!

Sponsors for this Toronto event include AGEWELL, PointClickCare and Revera – more of an Aging 1.0 company in a hurry. What the connector for all these technology oriented aging focused businesses is that they all pivot off the one core theme of aging and care – home, health, wellness and assisted living devices or services – all positives for opportunities in longevity.

Opportunity knocks.

But what of existing everyday businesses? We are hitting a smarter stride in an era of age aware marketing, though one might argue that some businesses have not reached the intelligence level to adapt their marketing strategies in recognition of undeniable shifts in aging demographics. Some marketing pitches of familiar, traditional product categories have not even reached Aging 1.0 in their efforts.

So many businesses that may not necessarily focus directly on the aging and care theme – are clumsy, stereotyping or patronizing in their attempts to reach a fifty-plus cohort, which itself is really a fifty-year spread. How do you target market better with that in mind? And what do you do if you sell food, clothing, vacations, banking services or deck chairs?

As I’ve recommended countless times, where to start to educate yourself in this endeavour if you are a business, is with the primer in reading, the 2013 – Kim Walker & Dick Stroud’s, Marketing to the Ageing Consumer.

And if you are a small business 1.0 or 2.0 in the Greater Toronto Area, looking to climb out from under the rocks and connect with others in aging focused businesses, join the Sheridan College, Centre for Elder Research Business of Aging Information Exchange Network (going global soon).

My closing Idea. To encourage improvement in age aware marketing excellence, maybe there should be an awards program for the best in Aging 1.0 Reboot companies (as opposed to Start Ups). I’d love to be the ringleader facilitator for that.

 

Mark Venning

 

Longevity Society: Welcome to a Mezzotopia?

If you follow the present global narrative on aging demographics, declining birthrates and our socioeconomic journey through a 21st century longevity society, you are allowed to feel somehow perplexed in the challenge of following the complex plotline. One minute we’re told we’re falling off a demographic cliff, or it’s an aging tsunami, where in a future by 2030 – all statistical roads lead to a dystopian landscape largely populated by seniors.

At a macro-level, this global discussion on the longevity revolution, as it is often called, has been taking place for the many years I’ve been researching it since 2001. Think tank organizations or coalitions at regional and international forums have more than adequately positioned the agenda for people on the street to make some meaning of it in our communities. Here we are – 2016, and this discussion is gathering steam, almost bursting for a Malcolm Gladwell tipping point.

Welcome to a mezzotopia. We are in a place in time where the discussion sounds discomforting, feeling some days like were half way – mezzo – with that media driven dystopian language in our ears. As patient or impatient as we may be with progress, we must push the envelope to help individualize the message in a new narrative, about how and why our life course model needs to change as a result of the predicted expectations for extended lifetimes.

How we choose to design and chunk out our life journey is only the beginning thread in the first chapter of the longevity narrative. In the October 2015, World Economic Forum white paper, titled How 21st-Century Longevity Can Create Markets and Drive Economic Growth; the call continues for the countries of the world, with all their variances in shifting demographics, to take advantage of the opportunities in what they describe as the “evolution of emerging markets”.

As Michael Hodin of the Global Coalition on Aging says in his recent Huff/Post 50 article:

“First, put “aging” at the top of the global agenda and direct serious public policy research asking the question: What are the principal public policy changes for aging societies that are likely to create pathways for economic growth? …. But it must be bigger: aging is equally about the young and the old.”

Yet, with so many competing issues on the global agenda – like the major increase in migration patterns occurring as an outcome of war and social unrest in certain parts of the world – aging may not be our single most immediately pressing concern. That said, we can’t ignore that all these “global agenda” items are all interconnected. What does aging and the promise of longevity look like to the migrant children living in the world today?

So yes, we are at a defining point in world history where we are in a position, with a healthy measure of foresight, to make fundamental shifts in macro policies – caring optimistically – for a sustainable future vision that will always be a work in progress. Here now, where economic and social inequalities, differences in cultural views on aging and debates about generational priorities; all reside in this narrative in a longevity society.

Welcome to a mezzotopia.

 

Mark Venning

Age-Friendly & Drivers of Change: It’s inter-generational.

Planet Longevity – 2nd Anniversary! As we enter our third year 2016, our basic function remains. Planet Longevity is a thought leadership panel. Our aim is to advance awareness of the changing social and economic conditions for all generations challenged by the multiple issues of living a longer life. Over the last few years, as we crafted (2012), formed (2014) and developed to where we are now; at the core of what we promote is forward thinking – with inter-generational connectivity in mind.

That fundamental notion transcends what so many often confine within their dialogue, as strictly a matter of “Boomer or Senior’s issues”. As we have said in different ways in our own conversations as a panel, and individually in our blog posts, you cannot isolate the topics such as health care, pension reforms or community design as one cohort’s concern.

With that in mind, we continue this year to support the Age-Friendly campaign, both on a local and global level, and encourage a sharper exchange of inter-generational views in the process. There are still so many differences in outlook and weighted levels of importance given to the many aspects of aging and longevity. Yet even the phrase “age-friendly” may not be as obvious in its intent to serve this inter-generational understanding.

Having said that, what we should be encouraged to know is that one subject which may bolster the age-friendly dialogue in an inter-generational exchange is technologyand its augmentation of living conditions throughout the life course for generations now and into the future.

Let’s connect some dots on this with some forward thinking.

Published in January 2016, in timing with the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, was a Future of Jobs report in a so named “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. One of the items featured in the report was “drivers of change”. This is broken into two categories – demographic/socio-economic, and technological. A significant driver of change in the first category is “longevity and aging demographics”.

Hook that up with one of the nine specifics in the technological category, such as robotics and autonomous transport, and you get I would argue, opportunity for inter-generational participation in designing a better age-friendly society. Technology augmentation – if it’s good for the old it’s good for the young, (which is one of the principles behind the age-friendly concept); it also can be said that – if the young and old get busy behind work (jobs) that support a longevity society, then we all benefit in this fourth revolution.

As the demographic and socio-economic narrative of the world is changing at warp speed, industries, countries, communities and individuals are going to have to adapt incrementally faster. As the WEF – Future of Jobs report suggests, the period of 2015 > 2017, (which we are in the middle of right now), is when the driver of “longevity and aging demographics” picks up momentum.

Exciting times to be elevating our thoughts about our Planet Longevity!

 
Mark Venning

Financials, Across our Life Course: Fusion and Confusion of Terminology – Part 3

fusionFinancial planning. Financial security. Financial literacy. Financial gerontology. Is it any wonder there is confusion with all this terminology floating in our heads? Not to forget the fusion. As we complete our current series on this subject, maybe it’s not a coincidence that we are now entering the year-end income tax season in Canada.

You can count on a barrage of advertising and news editorials to start any time now, reminding consumers about their retirement plan contributions and other related financial considerations. Turning our concern to personal financials however, should not be a once a year high anxiety moment; nor is it strictly a retirement discussion. Attention to financials issues cuts across our life course.

As a financial planning consultant, Marie says in part one of this series (Nov.30, 2015), personal financial planning is the process of helping individuals and families to use their income and assets to be meet their life goals now and in the future. In that same post, as the researcher and social gerontologist, Suzanne adds that economic and financial issues are important in people’s lives on the journey of aging, but they are also important as public policy issues.

Financial gerontology – public policy issue

Sticking with this term financial gerontology, Marie picks up here by saying that in the macro sense it is an urgent public policy issue. Financial gerontology should become the study of aging and the implementation of measures that will meet the needs of Canadas’ aging demographic. For example, financial, psychological, and general health planning to encompass all citizens from native peoples to immigrant and ethnic communities. The risk is that it will become yet another means of marketing financial products.

The problems associated with an aging demographic are not confined to governments to solve. To be sure, there are roles for all levels of government, but there are also roles for dedicated private groups and for individuals and families. Older adults must also be part of finding their own solutions.

Since we have scarce resources, what is the best use of public monies to meet the unique needs of an aging population? Given the shift and size of aging demographics, it would be very easy to allocate too many scarce resources to satisfying the needs of the aged at the expense of younger people. For example, reducing education funding for younger taxpayers. In consideration of how to determine the best use of these public resources for everyone, would it not be more beneficial that we have a creative inter-generational dialogue?

If financial gerontology is a society-wide, broadly based approach to the costs of aging, then personal financial planning is the specifically focused approach to an individual’s finances – whether they are young or old.

Improving public awareness of how these two professional fields work, (both separately and in fusion), is the challenge, and worth repeating, says Suzanne – financial and economic issues, such as low-income seniors, pension plans and retirement savings are gerontological issues, and they are important personal and public policy issues. Financial security is important for quality of life, and this cuts across our entire life course. However, quality of life goes beyond financial considerations.

Financial & gerontological collaborations

So how do we square the circle around the potential good coming from financial & gerontological collaborations? Let’s go back to the American Institute for Financial Gerontology and their aim to educate a Registered Financial Gerontologist (RFG) on how to “deliver financial solutions in a comprehensive manner with increased knowledge of the older client’s broad based needs.”

There is one significant difference where we say, Suzanne suggests, develop innovative ways on how to better serve “unique needs”, as opposed to deliver solutions to “broad based needs”. Terminology again. When you serve, you determine needs and respond; it is person focused. When you deliver solutions, you provide a product.

So is it possible to effectively combine Financial + Gerontology for older adults; or is it better that two different specialists are required for older client’s broad based needs?
From Marie’s viewpoint as a financial planning consulting – good advisors keep themselves up to date on developments in the financial world, and on general issues of aging, from senior housing to risk prevention in public and private spaces.

But the financial advisor is not in a position to give comprehensive advice about such things as behavioural issues, or health impacts on communities. The gerontologist can offer good background information to the financial advisor, just as the financial planner can offer realistic advice on basic financial issues for the benefit of the gerontologist.

We live in a world of specialization – mainly because there is so much knowledge out there that we cannot be effective if we try to offer services beyond our competency. Keeping up with our own specialties is a full time job!

We are also in the world of collaboration! That is the joy of thinking and writing this series together.
Marie Howes & Suzanne Cook

Aging and longevity, a privileged experience.

As we look ahead into our third year at Planet Longevity, there is no doubt that the major themes around aging and longevity will continue to evolve from the ones we looked at in 2015. Topics like Inter-generational Connectivity and Age-Friendly Communities were frequently at the centre of our conversation generated here on our bi-weekly blog.

While we consider all this we should put into perspective the fact that though familiar, heavily discussed social and economic issues related to aging demographics (e.g. health care investments, pension reforms) will be ongoing for many years to come, we need to consider such issues as they unfold, alongside other immediate global realities that are currently adding to our challenges.

For example, right now, as we close out this year, the global refugee migration and resettlement crisis of over a million people is at the highest level it has been in about seventy years. The question is, for parts of the world like Europe, with high youth unemployment and an already high proportion of an elder population; how will this enormous tragedy be acknowledged and managed going forward?

Somehow this question, layered into other conversations on difficult world issues, will no doubt be at play into 2016. As we celebrate and promote an age-friendly society, let us not forget how positive aging and longevity is a privileged experience for those of us more fortunate and able to articulate it – and with systems and policies designed to better achieve it.

Perhaps the disruptive realities of millions of people on the other side of the world, are often perceived as being at a comfortable screen-distance away. But these events are not that distant, and neither will the next speed-driven twenty years be, as the world population experiences demographic shifts which may not turn out to be exactly as we project or envision.

It is with this in mind that we still need to encourage more innovations responsive to the changing dynamics of communities, inclusive of the needs of all ages and diverse cultural backgrounds. I have a strange suspicion that the outlooks we take in the future, on adapting for an aging society, will require even more of a demand for a global perspective. Is that perchance why we call this group – Planet Longevity?

With a sense of good will and purpose … and a serious amount of good fortune, as Theodore Roszak once said, “longevity will outlast the Boomers.”

Best wishes for the New Year – 2016!

 

Mark Venning

Murky Waters in an Aging World: Fusion and Confusion of Terminology – Part 1

As general public awareness of the evolutionary story of aging demographics has increased over the last ten years, so too has the hyperactive dialogue about the social challenges we may face as a result. Yet the narrative of an aging world has spun new knowledge and innovations, positive attitudes and approaches to living a healthier longer life, and along with all that – new market opportunities.

It has also brought a new hybrid of language and, if not quite a fusion of professional fields of practice, certainly collaborations. One of the benefits of our Planet Longevity panel is that we have created a platform where the expertise and insights we bring from our individual practice areas helps inform each other in this fusion; and ideally helping others, we distill the complexities in the discussion on aging and longevity. Sort out the confusion of terminology if you will.

fusionSo where can we start here, to examine where some of this fusion and confusion exists?

Financial + Gerontology = ?

At first reading, never mind murky waters, you might think the fusion of these two terms, financial and gerontology are oceans apart.

How, individually, are these two practice areas defined? What happens if you try to couple these two established professional practices, when taken separately they are still largely not that well understood by the everyday person?

Enter Suzanne Cook, researcher and social gerontologist; and Marie Howes, financial planning consultant. We decided to ask each other first to clear up in uncomplicated terms what each of our professions is about and give you a sense of our particular focus. Let Suzanne start.

As a researcher who studies aging, let me begin by saying that as an interdisciplinary field, gerontology (the study of the biological, psychological, and social aspects of aging and older people) consists of many disciplines such as health, psychology, sociology, education, law and political science, to name a few.

Gerontologists work as practitioners on the front line with individuals. In addition, gerontologists can work within public policy and social planning. Within organizations, they can be involved in program development and evaluation. Gerontologists might also consult and conduct research, as I enjoy doing.

Traditionally, the financial aspects of aging have been a bit on the periphery within the study of aging, a part of gerontology and issues of aging, but not in the forefront. A great example of this is the lack of attention generally paid to later life work and career development among older adults, which is the focus of my research and work in the field.

Regardless, financial and economic issues, such as low-income seniors, pension plans and retirement savings, are gerontological issues, and are important personal and public policy issues. Furthermore, the importance of economic and financial issues in people’s lives on the journey of aging, but also as public policy issues, is further demonstrated through economics and financial management courses being included in many gerontology programs.

Let the fusion begin

This is where the fusion becomes interesting in an aging world. The ripples on the water in this conversation, pool closer when we both speak of the increasing importance of economic and financial issues connected with aging in our society. Marie picks up this linkage by looking at the micro process of personal financial planning.

As a financial planning consultant, my current focus is on challenging current standards for health care funding and delivery methods, and my other concern is about the regulation of financial and investment advisors as related to consumer rights.

Personal financial planning is the process of helping individuals and families to use their income and assets to be meet their life goals now and in the future. The objective is that these goals will be met through the implementation of cash flow management, risk avoidance plans, investment planning, tax strategies and estate planning.

Over the last ten years, personal financial planning has seen innovation in financial products needed by individuals to meet their goals – especially in investment products. For example, Exchange Traded Funds have become a lower cost alternative to mutual funds. But product developers have also added complexity to the product offerings. There has also been a trend toward “fee-based” financial planning, which can blur the distinction between “advice only” and “advice tied to product sales and compensation”.

The gap in public understanding of personal financial planning is in confusing financial planning with investment planning and the purchase of investment products. Many people think that financial planning means buying GICs or mutual funds. That is investment planning and implementation. True personal financial planning does include investment planning and the purchase of investment products, BUT it is a much broader process.

A much broader process indeed. As more of our thoughts turn to forward thinking on aging issues, it will be even more so when you begin to include the equation question Financial + Gerontology = ?

Next in part two of our series Fusion and Confusion, we will look at the current roll out of that equation and share our thoughts on what this means professionally, and how it may sit in the consumer mindset as they make decisions in their future life course.

 
Suzanne Cook & Marie Howes

Cautionary Tales of Aging & Shared Vulnerability

For our future selves, what more do we need to learn every day – from those cautionary tales of aging, particularly from those who are the older of the old in their later life journey? It should be enough for each of us to take notice, when you take into account aging demographics, curving upward as they are over the next few decades, that we are all going to have to be smarter about making our longevity as financially sound, as it is socially and healthily sound.

One of the longevity intersections, between health and financial, was highlighted in an October 2015 report by Mark Lachs, MD, MPH of Weill Cornell Medical College, New York and S. Duke Han PhD of Rush University Medical Center, Chicago. Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Lachs and Han propose a new concept they have named AAFV“age associated financial vulnerability” to describe a classic issue typically associated with an older persons’ declining ability to manage their financial affairs.

From our professional and personal experience, we can attest first-hand to what any reader here could share from their own stories of helping elder family members or friends. Obvious issues like dementia and other impairments to health can lead to a family or friend intervention, where help with personal financial matters is necessary. Often as we know, the intervention arrives too late and a sudden encounter with a problem like elder fraud can add to the mountain of worry.

Micro and macro financial accountability

There are two levels of help to consider here. One is the micro; the day-to-day management of finances and the other is the macro, such as decision making for longer-term investment strategies. In this video link on Senior Care Options website, Mary Ellen’s interview with financial investment expert Dan Richards, President of Client Insights, highlights in an easily digestible way, the very basics of what people need to consider in this cautionary tale.

One point made in the opening of the Lachs and Han paper states: “even cognitively intact older adults can have ‘functional’ changes that may render them financially vulnerable”. Apart from cognitive decline, two of these potential vulnerability areas for older adults are loneliness/social isolation and, perhaps due to lack of judgment, exposure to opportunistic marketing or “up-selling” of financial investment plans that may not meet the realistic needs of the individual.

The report makes for an educational and thought provoking read that in our minds, really elevates the importance of accountability for observing the symptoms of AAFV, not just for those in the medical community, but for all family members, community care workers, private elder care providers and financial planning advisors. This opens up a broader conversation about understanding the intersection between financial planning and gerontology, which our colleagues, Marie Howes and Suzanne Cook will discuss in upcoming posts.

And a shared vulnerability

Here though, we propose there is an increased social need for advanced learning programs as early as possible, starting at least at the secondary school level, to include financial literacy within recognition of changes in family dynamics; where helping to manage the health and financial affairs of aging parents or grandparents is now becoming an essential life skill.

Who typically is the catalyst in the conversation between the older parent and the financial or legal professionals? The children. How do they begin the open talk about financial affairs while respecting the privacy and independence of the parent? Not always easily or that open. When do these AAFV risk moments arrive most often? In a sudden crisis.

Yet, while you may think you have all the right processes in place for a crisis, there are unmentioned shifts in decisions that happen on the part of the older parent, and the children responsible are vulnerable due to incomplete communication, not knowing for example how the macro financial picture may have changed.

An unprepared, or for that matter even a well-prepared caregiver, with or without P.O.A. responsibilities, can both have exposure to the risks of “age associated financial vulnerability”. So, operating on the premise that “a good precaution is never wasted”, a financially sound longevity plan will incrementally change at different stages of a family life cycle, and in that sense, we all have shared accountability, and a shared vulnerability if we are not well prepared.

 

Mary Ellen Tomlinson & Mark Venning

A Holistic Approach to Healthy Aging.

With spring finally here, what a great time to announce that I was the first guest on the new weekly show called Why Our Seniors Matter launched May 4th, 2015 on ListenUp Talk Radio where my interview focused on a holistic approach to healthy aging. While this show will cover a range of topics of broad interest in the daily lives of seniors, it seems perfectly fitting to open with this holistic view.

Over the next thirteen weeks, the Why Our Seniors Matter show will feature many practical matters from finance to fitness, but they all tie in to one or more of the eight aspects of the holistic healthy aging – social, cognitive, physical, psychological, spiritual, purposeful work, financial and environmental.

In my progress, through my work as a gerontologist and educator, my focus has been on supporting a new vison of aging – healthy aging that is not only out of concern for the old but also for their families which makes all this truly an “inter-generational” new vision.

As I mentioned in the Talk Radio interview, there are gaps in how we provide information on aging matters directly to seniors in the community, and there will be a growing demand on family members of all ages to become an integral part of that information food chain as the aging demographic curve rises over the next two decades.

Furthermore, we require new ways of providing information and resources to those who need it. Communities and municipalities as well as businesses serving seniors can do a lot to shape the way information about seniors’ services and resources is presented. Lack of awareness is one issue but equally important is timely information provision.

Many older adults have complex needs and the best way to meet them is to enhance information, including knowledge of resources and tools. Better information provision is a key way to build an age-friendly society.

Coming up in June is Seniors’ Month in Ontario. Listening in to the Why Our Seniors Matter radio show is timely and as it happens all this coincides with our Planet Longevity theme of inter-generational connections as part of what makes a healthier age friendly community; all viewed in that holistic approach.
Suzanne Cook

Age Friendly Community, Inter-generational Connections.

In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a Global Age-friendly Cities Guide. Born out of a conversation at the World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics in Brazil two years earlier, it quickly became an international project with a huge scope. Let me proudly mention here, that there was a unique Canadian contribution early in this endeavour with funding and in-kind support from the Public Health Agency of Canada. You can read the rest of the tribute in the WHO guide.

The WHO “age-friendly” concept describes itself around eight themes and with the subset issues considered what you get is a combination of 70 elements and woven together it is enough to serve as a platform for robust discussion for innovation and change. As a group at Planet Longevity, our intent is to support this discussion across all generations.

Four cities in Canada (Halifax, Portage La Prairie, Sherbrooke and Saanich) took part in the initial 33-city WHO research project and since then a number of Canadian cities have formed community initiatives around this theme. From what I can tell, over the eight years since then, participation has been fragmented, and to some degree the conversation seems rather muted if non-existent in the general population. I think the perception is that “age-friendly” is an older person’s bone to chew on.

Why is this still significant for everyone? It’s no mystery that by 2030 the global population will be at the highest level of its migration to cities. In fact, we are realizing the impact of this right now. The evolution of cities will be every generation’s project – function, form, flow and the fabric of human interaction. Over the next fifteen years, the percentage of persons older than 65 will be significantly higher and thus the need to adapt the urban agenda to a workable inter-generational model for an aging population is a key opportunity.

A new narrative must frame how cities can be better designed, while integrating specific incremental life stage needs of older people alongside the shared needs of all generations – remembering that positive social interaction is a major contributor to the healthier lives of all generations.

Perhaps, could the better phrase be – “age-inclusive” cities?

_______ ♦_______

One element of societal change related to aging demographics in cities is the shifting nature of families and the evolution of other networks and communities. Considering we age in stages throughout a lifetime, (and today in more variable social formations), we might see it as evolutionary that there are life course solutions that more than one generation can envision.

Next month Lorraine Clemes will talk about one group of women as an example, who for the last forty years have “created and lived the benefits of a strong chosen family”.

 
Mark Venning