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

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.

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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

 

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

Technology & Aging in Place: Emergent. Innovative. Viable.

Reminiscent of the wonderment around web technologies in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, when the internet punched its way into the mainstream, and more recently the App revolution and mobile devices, the buzz around (for what I will call) technology development for a longevity society is now, more than a trend, a serious business.

In previous Planet Longevity posts, we have commented on some major program initiatives in this category. Making a Business Pitch for AgingMay 18 for example, featured the Aging 2.0 Global Start-up contest that acknowledged and encouraged entrepreneurs to develop technology products that would serve health, wellness and assisted living needs, with particular application to direct use in home environments.

screen-shot-2016-05-03-at-10-03-06-am-300x168We are gaining momentum it would seem. Almost as if there was something, (as per a Phil Collins song) “in the air tonight”, three events over the next few months focus on this very story Technology & Aging in Place. First up is the announcement last week of the technology based, 4th-Annual Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge, this year themed – Innovating Aging in Place. This contest is open to students around the world with the award winners picked in April 2017.

centre-for-elder-research_stackedRight on my doorstep, on October 27th, I will be attending a Sheridan Centre for Elder Research half-day event – Insights About Technology & Aging in Place with Alex Mihailidis, PhD, Scientific Director at Toronto based AGE-WELL as key-note speaker. His talk is titled, Disrupting the Current Technology & Aging Landscape.  

Another session speaker is John Helliker, Director of Strategic Partnerships and the Screen Industries Research & Training Centre (SIRT) at Sheridan College. His topic is Virtual & Augmented Reality: Opportunities for individual and social change within an aging population. Our future experience of aging in place is only beginning to look interesting, imagine what we’ve got to look forward to!

NIATo cap off this round of events in Toronto is the November 24-25 conference, Re-thinking Ageing 2016 produced by the Ryerson University National Institute on Ageing. One of the workshops I will be attending is a dialogue focused on Age-Friendly Communities & Alternative Living Options, which is one of the core themes that our Planet Longevity panel promotes.  Of course, Aging in Place is one of those options.

On the second day of the conference, a workshop will discuss Accessible Home Design & Technologies to Enable Caregiving. The moderators are Jamie Shipley, Knowledge Transfer Consultant at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Donn Fenn, CEO of Caregiver Omnimedia. (On October 17, this company is also holding a well targeted Home Modification conference in Kortright, Ontario)

There is a great trigger question in the preamble note to this topic, which is worth sharing:

“What strategies can be used to overcome funding, policy and/or program barriers to achieve increased access to the enabling technologies and home modification supports for older adults and their caregivers?”

This is a hard to ignore dialogue and to be sure, some like our moderators here are ahead on the curve of change with it.

If you are looking at the home and health care funding policies of political parties in the next election in your province in Canada, you should be paying more attention. If you are a home designer, builder or realtor, you should be forming alliances with each other and share information on technology trends to advise your clients. If you are a future home seller or buyer, (heck even now), these are the kinds of questions that should be more front of mind over the next decade.

All of this may sound to some, like either a lot of hype ahead of its time, or a – Yikes, what’s this mean to me sitting in my future home, Bungalow Bill? (Again, can’t resist a song title.) But there is no getting around it; this Aging in Place dialogue is an opportunity for doing your clients a favour by enlightening them in their decision making process. This is an opportunity for individual careers and businesses in the emergent fields of design technology and viable going forward in a longevity society.

 

Mark Venning

 

Seniors? Captures a wider continuum of age.

A month away until Ontario’s 32nd annual Seniors’ Month and the 2016 theme is “Seniors Making a Difference”. Consider the fact if you will, that the word “Seniors” captures a very wide continuum of age. In some cases, depending on to whom the marketing is being directed, a so-called senior could be as early as age 55, extending to 105 or beyond. That’s a potential of fifty years of making a difference.

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With that in mind, it makes the concept of extended lifetimes harder to decide – when does someone suddenly become a Senior?  No disrespect, but does the word senior perpetuate a stereotype or draw too rigid a definition of a segment of age in a society? Someone 55 may not identify with that word unless maybe you’re giving them a retail consumer discount. Is there a better word for an older person?

You don’t hear anyone calling Gen Y – “Juniors”. Well there is the organization Junior Achievement; let’s give you that. But even their branding is now JA Canada and the word junior has slid from the slide show.

When you think of it, when an organization like the National Institute on Ageing, (referenced in our last blog post), promotes a more up to date message, with the title for their upcoming conference being – “Rethink Ageing” – is it not time to consider a fresher approach to marketing a month dedicated to celebrating the contributions of older citizens?

Of course, the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat only tosses out a theme and offers a forum for local communities to host their own events with their own way of celebrating the month. Judging by the postings listed so far, with the 2016 province wide events starting at the end of May actually, the standard offerings range from free Seniors’ BBQ’s and Strawberry Socials, to Information sessions on community services and Seniors’ achievement awards.

Seniors and their Juniors (and often together), are making a difference all year long in their communities, some quietly, without expectation of a fanfare. In 2013, the Ontario government published its own Age-friendly Community Guide. Two of the key elements in the guide are social participation & respect and social inclusion. As we suggested last year, within these two elements, lie the benefits of having better inter-generational connections that are integral to the success of an age-friendly community.

Perhaps with a little more thought, some communities will be encouraged to look for a new line of sight for redefining Seniors, recognizing that no one can deny any one of any age, that “making a difference” is an ageless opportunity.

 

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