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.

logo-jpg

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

Life Course Solutions – Families by Design.

What is a family? How could our concept of what a family is, or might be, impact our choices in living healthily? Might we have both a blood-related and a strong chosen family? In what way might we create a sense of family that serves the needs all generations? What implications might that have for chapters in our later life?

I recently met several women who met in their twenties, and over the past forty years have created and lived the benefits of a strong chosen “family”. Some formed committed relationships and adopted or bore children and some remained single.

Here are ways that a broad definition of “family” has served them. As you read the list, consider the ways these could be beneficial. You or someone you know:

• owns a time-share and regularly includes others in vacations
• has a large garden for outdoor parties and growing vegetables to share
• maintains (although single), a large vehicle that can accommodate the “family”   including providing transit when one of the younger generation went off to university or if mobility devices need to be transported
• shares their electric car for short journeys
• includes someone without children/grandchildren of their own in family events, celebrations, discussions of decisions on health and education

These women have taken vacations together to defer cost and share in the experience. They regularly cook large quantities of food and share in the preparation or meals and social interaction with others lives. All have chosen to live in close enough proximity to participate in caregiving if someone is ill, and for social interaction.

There are practical and sometimes legal issues to be considered, when we intertwine our lives in this way but many models of “family” are increasingly being explored.

How is this relevant for you? In what way could you explore the opportunities you might embrace by broadening your “family”? What benefits or challenges would you anticipate? Who makes up your family? Where do the opportunities lie for you?

Likely, your longevity – your life course will be more positively shaped by how innovative you are in answering these questions.

 

Lorraine Clemes

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