Re-think Ageing from the Old Economy Social Narrative.

For an inaugural year 2016, the National Institute on Ageing (NIA) at Ryerson University in Toronto looks to have set the stage well for its future vision. Closing with its November 24-25 conference – Re-think Ageing, the event hit the mark at a rapid pace, presenting a full range of elements in the current social narrative on ageing.

NIA

 

 

 

Over two days, constructed around the four pillars in the National Seniors Strategy for Canada, the conference managed to convey the breadth and diversity of this dialogue that affects the lives of not only seniors, but the lives of entire families. 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.

Among the sizeable audience, on the opening first day which I attended, the Planet Longevity group members with me included Sandra Downey, Mary Ellen Tomlinson and Suzanne Cook, who was one of the presenters in an Idea Bank break out session titled “Social Innovation, Productive Activity & Life-long Learning”. Suzanne presented alongside two other business friends of mine – Lisa Taylor of the Challenge Factory and Adele Robertson of V Generation.

In a very compressed amount of time, Lisa Taylor shared her model around working in later life with her Legacy Careers for those 50-75+. Adele presented her personal story, which led to her retake on volunteerism and as her web site says, how V Generation coaches people on how to “rewrite the after-work playbook” as a means of staying active and engaged. Suzanne introduced her new documentary film sponsored by CERIC Redirection: Movers, Shakers & Shifters.

Idea Banks for further re-think

Here is the question that set the tone for the group discussion that followed up on their triad presentation, which was really about how our frames of reference regarding retirement has changed the way people are approaching their later life journeys as opposed to the crisp end of work life as generally experienced by previous generations:

“How should Canadian employers, education, municipalities and social entrepreneurs evolve their thinking and options for older adults to increase their participation in the labour force, volunteerism or in lifelong learning via continuing education programs?”

There is a lot of meat on the bones of that question and the presenters conveyed a very consistent and complimentary theme that to their credit, managed to stimulate a buzz in the group conversations that followed, one that struck a chord with each person as they equally took it on a personal level. Unfortunately, the set-up of the room, the size of the audience, as well as the design structure and facilitation elements did not lend to the best output.

You might say that this session was a teaser – which could have rolled into a fuller well-facilitated 2-3 hour interactive dialogue, directly with the three presenters. So in that sense as the saying goes – Lisa, Adele and Suzanne left us wanting more! While this same comment could be made for the other Idea Bank presentations that day, the NIA should be congratulated for their ambitious effort to put a lot of effort into launching a national conversation to Re-think Ageing.

As a final thought for now, on the above meaty question posed for this specific session, I think that what we need to consider on a macro scale is that our fast moving, contemporary answer to “what is a labour force?” is fundamentally different to, and thus not so compatible to the old economy and social narrative.

Let me suggest that, in reference to Lisa’s reconstruction with Legacy Careers, Adele’s “after-work” re-write and Suzanne’s Redirection for later life work – it is becoming increasingly so that people are contributing to society and the economy in many different ways, which are not necessarily measurable by traditional labour market language. Furthermore from what I observe, even if they don’t yet have the impulse to re-think ageing, it’s not only the current generation of 50-plus citizens that are looking for a life re-direction of some form.

 

Mark Venning

Career Redirection: Idea Bank @ NIA Re-think Ageing Event

On November 24th at the Re-think Ageing conference produced by the Ryerson University National Institute on Ageing (NIA), Dr. Suzanne Cook, one of our Planet Longevity thought leaders will be presenting a short introduction to her new documentary titled Redirection: Movers, Shakers and Shifters in an Idea Bank portion of a session on Social Innovation, Productive Activity & Life-long Learning.

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The documentary, funded by the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC), follows the stories of four individuals over the age of 50, and the challenges they faced in their process of career redirection and is but one component of an overall CERIC funded project. The manuscript with the specific research findings from this project will be completed over the next few months and will provide great content for further discussion within the career development field and beyond.

Quoting Suzanne again:

“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.”

The NIA Idea bank spot, follows the first full showing of the documentary last month in Montreal at the 45th annual Canadian Association of Gerontology conference. Further plans to showcase this film include a special invite showing at the CERIC office in Toronto on November 30, 2016 and a full presentation at the CANNEXUS Career Development conference in January 2017.

Given recent media dialogue around the changing employment landscape and the so called “precarious nature of work”, this “redirection” theme, while directed with relevance to an older demographic in this documentary, in many ways holds a message for all generations, where now and into the future, learning how to redirect career paths through a longer life course will be a constant process.

Mark Venning

 

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

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

Redirection: New Later Life Career Research Project Launched!

Planet Longevity is pleased to share in our congratulations to one of our contributors on this thought leadership panel. Suzanne Cook has now launched a new research project funded by the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC). Titled the Redirection: Work and Later Life Career Development Project, this one-year project will, among other things, make recommendations to assist professionals who deliver career services to older adults in their later life career development.

Suzanne Cook is a social gerontologist and an adjunct professor at York University in the Department of Sociology and in the YU Centre for Aging Research and Education (YU-CARE). She has a shared interest in this subject area with 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 or so.

Career professionals work in different venues such as college, university and community based career centres, to private sector career & talent management firms and individual coaching practices with private clients. One struggle for professionals, who work with clients in their later life stages, is to find the right way to position relevant language around later life careers in a world where a term like “older workers” still tends to feed a stigma from an old narrative.

Attitudes to work, retirement, aging and longevity are not always consistent for everybody. Depending on how and where a career professional finds a client in their work-life journey, they have to take into account the client’s personal situation, their unique needs and desires and their current take on their potential. It may become a question of how creatively and progressively the professional helps them by moving away from outmoded frames of reference.

The margins have shifted in terms of how long and in what way people will choose to work in the future – and it is after all a personal decision. I support the view that there is no crisp end to work at any stage of later life, and this also depends, now and in the future, on how we choose to describe what work, a workplace and a workforce is. For many this time now is about paving the way for an extended lifetime beyond traditional expectations of a retirement.

“Redirection” is Suzanne’s operative word in her endeavour to help shift the mind-set of those in later life career, as well as those who are in a professional position to help them better articulate their options. There is both a creative and pragmatic side to career conversations, a push, pull and probe approach. One of the more pragmatic questions in this new frame of reference thus becomes “how are you going to finance your longevity?” Now there is a stretch of thinking.

As Suzanne Cook continues her work over the next year with CERIC, Planet Longevity will provide any timely project updates and at the same time help facilitate her in the dissemination of the project’s activities and findings.
Mark Venning

Active and Working. A Healthier Longevity

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of research indicates that most people live healthier lives if they are active and working. Recently both a client and a friend illustrated the challenge of this. The client was a man – mid-60s, with a rich and successful work history , who has been looking for employment for a couple of years. The friend was a woman – early 60s, still employed but wondering what to do with her career once she retires from full time work.

The risk for the client is – never getting engaged again in a way he can contribute his skills. He needs to explore how and where the core of what he has to offer is relevant to the challenges of today’s organizations, and use his rich network to either consult or find contracts that will help them. It may look different than if he was 40 and searching for a “job”.

The risk for the friend is – delaying leaving something that she is wanting to move on from, because she doesn’t know what is realistic for her to move towards. She needs to get clear on the criteria for her future venture and do some research and reality checking to see if and where opportunities may occur.

From my experience as a career counsellor I’d suggest the following for individuals exploring  later life careers :

  • Get clear on personal criteria for desired work activity in this stage of your life
  • Be realistic about which of your skills are most relevant going forward for today’s challenges
  • Network to test your ideas and ask open questions to explore possibilities not considered
  • Start considerations early so your networking activities and resultant marketing materials  are most relevant to meet today’s needs

The good news is that by mid-life we know ourselves better than when we were younger. If you listen at a deep level  to what you already know about yourself and what you want, and attend as carefully during your research gathering and networking, you have the best chance of creating your best “what next” to support  your healthier  longevity.

Lorraine Clemes

 

Planet Longevity: Leading Thought Begins!

With great enthusiasm I am pleased to announce the launch of Planet Longevity, a thought leadership panel; a group of eight people who collectively offer forward thinking with a broad perspective on issues related to aging and longevity.

Our extended life expectancy as we know it now, is changing outlooks on how societies will adapt differently around the world. The aspects and prospects for our longevity beg for clear observation, practical ideas and positive re-framing.

The Planet Longevity goal is to position the many dimensions of this subject so as to influence, enlighten and challenge assumptions around how we will actually adapt to the experience of aging and longevity in our foreseeable future:

  •  Healthy aging and social policy
  • Personal wellness – body, mind and spirit
  • Elder care and family dynamics
  • Later life career renewal
  • Aging and work re-modelled
  • Financial foresight for later life
  • Smarter marketing to an aging consumer
  • Community redesign and cross-generational networks

All of this and more is perpetually changing individual attitudes and societal policy approaches for generations now and to come. For example: How do we reshape our world from the narratives constructed from our familiar past? Old narratives around issues like old age pensions, long term health care and our relationship to work, jobs and economic progress.

Planet Longevity has a crisp offering, as you will see cruising quickly through the web site. You could say we serve almost like your one source conference program, advisory group or speaker’s bureau. Our bi-weekly blog will feature all our members throughout the year and we invite you to contribute your questions and comments to encourage positive ideas.

The photo on the home page of fingers intertwined is a sequence from the Japanese film exhibit at the 54th Venice Biennale, 2011.

“In some of the images…a human brain comes rising like the sun or the moon, and the world unfurls itself in the light that appears shining from the brain. Up-and-down movements like this form the basis of the images of this work…the mirrors make people imagine the world spreading sideways….and the energy reflected by the mirrors continues to expand endlessly by the imagination of the viewers.” Tabaimo, Artist

Aging is natural and inevitable. How well do we foresee, prepare for and actualize our longevity? It is in our collective minds to answer and in our daily life actions to fulfill.

Welcome to Planet Longevity; where Leading Thought Begins!

Mark Venning