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?

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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

Community Home Care: Hope & Reality on a collision course?

Part 1: Sorting Definitions, Medical & Accommodation Factors

Community home care for an aging demographic; what does it mean? The term “community home care” s bandied about as though it has a specific meaning and that we should all know what it is – but it can mean:

Aging in place: remaining in your own traditional home, supported by housekeeping and healthcare services, until you are no longer able to cope

Purpose built or adapted housing residences: for those who want to be part of a “community” of people that might be comprised only of older seniors, or a mixture of people of various ages, as in a neighbourhood, with housekeeping and healthcare services available.

Care residences: where older seniors are the main residents because they require dedicated care provided by community members, volunteers and professionals; paid for by residents or by government, non-profit or charitable organizations or a combination of these. This is where Long Term Care facilities enter the discussion.

Essentially, there are four major factors to consider in this mix: Medical, Accommodation (housing), Demographics and Funding. Here are the first two.

Medical. There are risks to the “aging in place” model. Many older seniors become trapped in the “tea and toast” syndrome wherein they do not eat properly or take care of themselves physically and mentally. Loneliness and depression and physical injuries, which may be undiscovered for hours or days, can occur.

Accommodation. Moving to a smaller home, whether purpose-built or in the broader neighbourhood can be a daunting prospect. Most people rightly dread moving, with its stress and upheaval. Sometimes, too, family members pressure their elders into staying put since the home is “the family home” and repository of happy memories (and increased, non-taxable capital gains over time.) In terms of their housing, many older seniors are house rich but cash-flow poor.

Hope and reality on a collision course? Should government direct scarce resources into caring for seniors in need at home when the logical solution is for them to sell their valuable house and downsize, and then use the surplus to pay for the help they need?

This sets context for the next blog post on demographics and funding. In brief, Boomers looking forward should consider their assets owned as well as their income streams; as their hope and reality for community home care for themselves may be on a collision course.

 

Marie Howes

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