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

 

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