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 – 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

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

Financial Gerontology: Fusion and Confusion of Terminology – Part 2

fusionIn part one of Fusion and Confusion of terminology, we presented a basic introduction of our individual professional backgrounds, Marie in the financial planning field and Suzanne in the field of gerontology. One thing in common that we both can say about each of these fields is that while practitioners do work on the front line with individual clients, there are also areas where professional services operate at a macro level. Almost like trying to explain – what is engineering? Likely several ways to drill that down (so to speak).

When it comes to our modern day discussion on aging, longevity, retirement, elder care and so on, there are many intersections where concerns such as health, mobility and financial security can, almost in equal measure, be found mentioned in the same sentence. We left you in our last post, pondering on the equation Financial + Gerontology=? So what do we get?

Financial Gerontology

A little history. According to the American Institute for Financial Gerontology, the term was first established as a discipline in 1988. The AIFG registered program is promoted to give a competitive advantage in the market to professionals that include accountants, lawyers, reverse mortgage lenders and of course financial planners. As one of its three value statements declares, it will help a Registered Financial Gerontologist (RFG) “deliver financial solutions in a comprehensive manner with increased knowledge of the older client’s broad based needs.”

It is from this point that broad terminology can really take the consumer on a ride, and to a certain extent beyond a fusion of jargon, it can lead to consumer confusion. Read a little more widely these days and you will hear newer phrases such as “wealth span planning”. Over the years as Marie observes, in Canada we’ve stuck to clumsy but realistic descriptors like “holistic retirement planning” or “financial and lifestyle retirement planning”.

For another turn of a term you can read on the Simon Fraser University Gerontology MA Careers page, how they describe that the “population bulge will have a big impact on the health care sector and a variety of companies and services as they begin to ‘gerontologize’ products and services.” Isn’t that exactly what is happening here with financial planning services?

Beyond legitimacy for marketers

As a researcher and social gerontologist, Suzanne sees this relatively new field of Financial Gerontology facing some challenges that include improving public awareness and financial education, as well as having those with this designation adhere to a professional code of conduct that puts client interests first as they develop innovative ways to better serve unique needs.

Yet, how more well-informed have consumers of financial planning services become over the last thirty years? From Marie’s point of view, perhaps not much, if at all. And for that matter how well understood is the field of gerontology, not to be confused with geriatrics? It would appear there is still a wide gap in understanding in each respective field, without even trying to couple the two.

As a financial planning consultant, Marie sees that as it stands the use of the term Financial Gerontology, especially in the U.S., is simply another technique for gaining legitimacy for the marketers of financial products – whether those products be insurance or investments.

While it may appear that it combines personal financial planning with gerontological data which is applicable to individuals; ideally and realistically, it is the application of corporate and government financial modelling from the data obtained through the study of gerontology. Its end purpose is to produce useful public policy for the benefit of citizens as they age.

Financial gerontology, if it is to be a useful concept, is the combination of financial considerations at the government level, with data obtained through statistically objective research methods employed by qualified gerontologists and demographers.

Big business of aging

Following on that as Suzanne points to here, during the last decade, issues at the intersection of gerontology and finance have come more into the mainstream since some large financial institutions have hired gerontology experts to better develop tools and resources and hone branding for their aging clientele. More recently, Financial Gerontology has been much discussed following the White House 2015 Conference on Aging in the United States, where policy on financial issues was addressed.

One of the best corporate examples of this fusion, Financial + Gerontology, is Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Cyndi Hutchins, is their director of Financial Gerontology who also created their internal Merrill Lynch Longevity Training Program, developed in partnership with the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.

Yes. This kind of thing is now part of this “gerontologized” era, in the big business of aging. In part three of our series Fusion and Confusion, we will look at some of the gaps in understanding that still exist, some macro and micro aspects, and discuss the potential of realistic collaborations between these two professional areas.

 

Marie Howes & Suzanne Cook

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

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

Planet Longevity: Celebrating 1st Anniversary!

Actually in a way, it was in September 2012 that the eight of us came together to form what became Planet Longevity and our web site went up with our first bi-weekly blog post Feb.2 2014. Heading into our second year, as a thought leadership panel, we will focus on specific aspects under the theme:

“Age Friendly Community, Inter-generational Connections.”

As an example of one of these aspects, our Planet Longevity panelist Suzanne Cook teaches a Sociology of Aging course developed at York University, where Inter-generational Learning is experienced; eight older adults joining students in their 20’s, which is an innovative method of linking these generations. Suzanne also presented on this topic at the Canadian Association on Gerontology conference in October last year.

So much more underscores this theme of “age friendly” when it comes to things like designing community neighbourhoods, understanding the shared investment in the delivery of appropriate home/health care and not to forget, how financial literacy crosses the life course – not just retirement nest egg planning.

In addition, we will continue to track Canadian and international initiatives to share perspectives on how various parts of the world are forward thinking on aging issues. It’s a global demographic shift of considerable measure in some regions more than others, and the way each community positively reshapes the longevity narrative for future generations will perhaps be judged useful only if influenced by a more inter-generational conversation.

Thanks to Suzanne Cook, Mary Ellen Tomlinson, Sandra Downey, Lorraine Clemes, Marie Howes, Jill Jukes and Gerald Bramm for contributing to the ongoing idea generation, research, marketing and blogging for the group. Happy Anniversary to us!

 

Mark Venning

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

Landscapes of Aging, 2014

Niagara Falls. What a perfect location as a symbol of longevity in the beautiful landscape of the Niagara region. From Oct.16-18, 2014 the Canadian Association of Gerontology (CAG) holds its 43rd annual conference – Landscapes of Aging – Critical Issues, Emerging Possibilities.

Suzanne Cook, (apart from being a scout for Planet Longevity), will be a presenter at the conference on the Saturday morning, chairing the session under the banner “Intergenerational Learning within Formal Educational Programs”. Suzanne’s specific piece will focus on the work she has been doing at York University in a one-year course – Sociology of Aging. More from Suzanne on this in our next Planet Longevity blog post.

Take a scan through the CAG conference program and you will be amazed if not overwhelmed by the wide range of niche topics related to aging issues. There is no room to say that you aren’t spoiled for choice; and you don’t have to be a gerontology professional or academic to understand that each of the aspects covered has a real connection to what everyday people are experiencing.

Setting aside keynote speakers, the granular details of the “critical Issues & emerging possibilities” are parcelled out in thematic doses over three days, too many to mention here. Sample of a few that popped out at me:

  • Person centered home care
  • Challenges in long term care
  • Experiences of caregivers
  • Aging and social exclusion
  • Rural aging
  • Changing the culture of dementia care
  • Aging and technology

Gerontology as a field of knowledge and professional practice encompasses so much as any Google search will reveal, a “multidisciplinary” field as the CAG describes itself. Considering the direction society is taking in terms of aging demography, it serves all of us to be well informed about the challenges and possibilities.

So much news on the social aspects of aging is headlined in caution and worry words like risk and cost or being under capacity to serve the old. Easy as it is to define the critical issues, the more enlightening outcome from this conference will hopefully be about what the world of gerontology is doing with the emerging possibilities.

Mark Venning