National Institute on Ageing: Re-think Ageing Update

As an update to the November 2016, National Institute on Ageing (NIA) Re-think Ageing conference, earlier this month the NIA finally pulled together a summary, Proceedings and Event Report, which accurately describes the entire two days content presenting a full range of the elements in the current social narrative on ageing in Canada.

NIAOver two days, the conference was constructed around the four pillars in the National Seniors Strategy for Canada. One of the goals the NIA set out to achieve was to “broaden the policy dialogue on key issues by purposefully including older adults in the conversation” – that is to say others who are not directly working in the field of ageing such as academics, service providers and product developers.

Based on the success of this event, the NIA is planning a second conference in November 2017, though dates have yet to be announced. Last year, three of us from the Planet Longevity group attended and in one case presented on Day 1 of the conference, and I expect we might again. Personally speaking I hope that the massive structure of the panels and idea bank sessions will be broken down – fewer topics, smaller groups – with more time for well-facilitated conversation.

As I commented after last year, one of the benefits of attending the first NIA conference was meeting people who have a shared enthusiasm for the subject matter, in all its diversity; but the format of the breakouts did not provide enough time for quality interaction, time to confer. Having planned and orchestrated conferences over the years, the lesson is that big isn’t always better.

A supporting sponsor organization for the Ryerson University based NIA, is the International Federation on Ageing (IFA). As it happens, the IFA is holding its global conference in Toronto – August 8-10, 2018. While both these conferences, several months apart in the same city, may attract different audience segments, it will be interesting to see how different, and dare I suggest more robust the content will be for the NIA conference this November.

Given all this choice, depending on your professional interests, there is only so much specialized content you can digest and if you only have so much time and financial investment for these learning opportunities, then you need to clearly see the differentials for why you would attend one or both of these events.

In some ways, an NIA conference in November 2017 could be seen as a prelude to the August 2018 IFA event. As both organizations share the agenda on the “healthy aging” conversation for example, it would make sense to me that if the NIA is going to produce something first, then it should look for ways to present a more focused discussion on something other than healthy aging.

My suggestion for the NIA would be to do a one-day conference with the focus on the two complimentary pillars in the National Seniors Strategy – Care Closer to Home & Support for Caregivers. This issue alone is worth a deeper dive and it truly is an inter-generational concern, not merely a seniors-centric issue. Based on a recent experience designing a small inter-generational panel, I see huge potential for taking the caregiving agenda out to millennials and Gen-X for better insight, and for that matter, greater action.

Whatever the decision, I would encourage the NIA to announce their dates, theme and agenda before September. Time waits for no one and the August 2018 IFA event is tapping my interest already.

 

Mark Venning

Technology & Aging, New Horizons for Telecare

Fall Conference-Symposium season is upon us once more and in our Sept.16 post, Technology & Aging in Place: Emergent. Innovative. Viable.  we highlighted two in the Greater Toronto & Hamilton Area, one presented by the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research (October 27) and the other by Ryerson University’s National Institute on Ageing (NIA) (November 24/25).

Another major national event is in Montreal this year, the Canadian Association on Gerontology (CAG) 45th Anniversary Conference (October 20-22). Our Planet Longevity colleague Suzanne Cook presented at this annual conference in 2014 on the subject of Inter-generational Learning. Being selective on what events to invest in this year was made simple by a mere matter of geography and so Suzanne, Sandra, Mary Ellen and myself will be attending the NIA conference in Toronto.

However, upon reviewing the content and speakers at the Montreal CAG conference, it is worth highlighting one speaker in particular as it touches on a subject of great interest that matches the knowledge base of a number of us on the Planet Longevity panel.

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Sue Yeandle, Professor of Sociology, University of Sheffield in the UK, will be speaking on the topic – Connecting People and Systems: What Role for Technology in Caring & Ageing Well in Later Life? Once again, we cannot ignore the emerging role of technology as evidenced by so much of the content presented at the other events we have featured in previous posts.

If you dig further, it becomes obvious that Yeandle is a strong leader in the area of caregiving in public policy not only with a UK focus, but also at an international level. One of the other organizations she was involved with in the UK is Aktive Project, which is Advancing Knowledge of Telecare for Independence & Vitality. You can get an initial sense of how inspiring this is by watching the short video link on the home page. It demonstrates how well this brings collaborative research right down to practice in the community.

On all counts, this kind of initiative and others we can find like it will be worth following and supporting in the years to come. In Canada for one example, there is The Caregiver Network. An excellent website includes this blog post – How Technology is Changing Aging by Stephanie Erickson, which ties in with this overall theme.

One of my business advisory relationships is with Dr. Adolfo Cotter at Cognimetrix, and one of his practice areas in the US is in the delivery of telemedicine, which is a growing field and with some momentum, hopefully, telecare will soon become the companion service that will ultimately become mainstream. One thing to keep in mind when you research this area, and that is that there are variations on what telecare means and how it is presented as a service to the public.

More on Sue Yeandle and her work in future posts, but in the short run here is an article she wrote in August 2016 – Caring for our carers for the Institute for Public Policy Research in the UK. While she draws attention here to the fact that the UK, a leader in the “international carers’ movement”, has in recent years fallen behind others countries such as Canada and Australia, Yeandle calls for the UK to “retake the lead”.

Retake indeed. Perhaps the Aktive Project could retake its position, as the only disappointing thing I see is that there hasn’t been any active content development or communication on their website or Twitter feed in the past two years. This is often what happens when the good intensions of group networks slip off the radar as individual people get on to other things.

Still, Sue Yeandle leads the charge with an international focus and is working on a new book due out in 2018, currently titled Making Caring Matter: the mobilization of carers and its impact on policy making around the world. Wouldn’t it be timely if she were to appear at the International Federation on Ageing conference in Toronto in August 2018? If so, sign me up.

 

Mark Venning

Re-Think Ageing Conference: Now Fall 2016. Planet Longevity – Ready to go!

Looks like a re-set on the date for the Re-Think Ageing Conference 2016, originally planned for May 4-5.

Planet Longevity group members are still ready and set to go when the new dates are announced for some time in the fall – 2016. Perhaps the cause for the sudden decision to delay was for the simple reason that the subject matter reached such an unexpected, high level of interest, that the location and format needed adjustment to handle the crowd. Let’s hope they start Tweeting updates soon.

Produced in Canada by the National Institute on Ageing (NIA) in partnership with the Ontario Gerontology Association and the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University, the conference ties in with the Four Pillars Theme of the National Seniors Strategy (NSS) with some very prominent presenters in break-out sessions over two days.

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All of this is not to be confused with the National Seniors Council (NIC). This federal government initiative hasn’t done any media updates since June of 2015 and hasn’t put out any report or publication since 2014. With all the apparent interest gathering steam in the media, there seems to be a lag in the ability of these organizations to get in front fast enough to meet the demand for not just conversation, but participation.

To be fair, he National Institute on Ageing (NIA) is relatively new, hitting the ground with a media release in February 2016. One of the inaugural founding partners in this new endeavour is the International Federation on Ageing (IFA). This explains one small detail in that an alternate spelling of the word – aging – is applied here. Not that Planet Longevity will alter the spelling. Either way, we all know what we’re discussing.

The further good news about the IFA, is that their new global headquarters is now in Toronto. This can only be good news and good reason to believe that the NIA will develop a stronger voice in Canada. But the one thing to note, while we are still talking spelling and verbiage, is that no one organization or group owns the story of ageing in the 21st century. There is enough room for collaboration on the “re-think”.

In addition, we should pay attention to the fact that while we persist in using the term “seniors”, we run the risk of excluding inter-generational participation on the great “re-think” on ageing. Everyone ages. What is more the inclusive term, as far as we see it, is “longevity”. There is enough concern, multiple shared touch points on all the issues of ageing for all generations to be involved.

In that light, let’s propose for a moment, that what we really need is a National Longevity Strategy. As Mary Ellen Tomlinson said in our March 31 blog post, “longevity is not accidental”. Understanding the issues and improving the conditions for a current older population over 65, (for the sake of an argument as to who is a senior), is of great significance for all people as they age into the future. Conferences and summits in Toronto and around the world therefore, ought not to be exclusive to seniors.

If future generations are going to achieve a healthier, happier longevity, then the conversations we are having today about the choices we are making, on everything from health care to community design, will ensure that a productive and useful longevity is not accidental, but a consciously chosen destiny.

NIA. Bring on the “re-think”!

 

 

Mark Venning