Finding an ARTful Later Life.

Often if you are open to it, messages from the world of the arts, arts in any form, that arrive seemingly in a singular way can actually deliver simultaneous swells of self-awareness that converge into one moment without force, but more with unexpected flourish. So it has been for me, these last number of months, an encounter with messages about what I would call an Artful later life.

Perhaps this has been gathering in a subliminal way, triggered last year by a flash memory of seeing and hearing Arthur Rubenstein at 78, play piano on stage at Massey Hall in Toronto. I was 13 at that time and he went on to live until shy of age 96. Only today, I was reminded again of this, reading an Economist Feb.18th article, “Why so many artists do their most interesting work in their final years”. Of course, in some cases artists may not have known if it was their final years – yet; but it turned out to be abruptly so.

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One other recent read, underscores this notion of the Artful later life. Mad Enchantment by Ross King (2016) is the story of Claude Monet in his later life, working on his Grande Décoration, the painting of the waterlily murals for the Orangerie des Tuileries in Paris. Against the historical backdrop and unfolding drama of the early 1900’s, this is a great relating of Monet’s determined creative powers while fighting cataracts to complete his final vision from his mind’s eye.

 

 

At the same time as all this, in one my encounters in the world of the arts since last June as a Board Member for the Oakville Galleries, I have attended a number of our contemporary art exhibitions, which include until March 12, the art work of internationally known 92 year-old Etel Adnan – writer and visual artist. Over twelve of her pieces shown here are from the last three years or so.

Our most interesting work in later life?

These are only a few prominent examples of people who represent the possibilities of an ARTful later life. Today in an age of greater longevity, you can witness more people in their later years, experiencing various aspects of the arts in countless ways – renewing the hidden talent, taking it up for the first time in community centres or teaching it to others. And not by any small measure has it been recognized that engagement in the arts encourages well-being; physiologically and cognitively.

On my doorstep, in a January 2017 announcement, the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging (RIA) and the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research appointed Dr. Kate Dupuis as the Schlegel Innovation Leader in Arts and Aging. Sheridan College has a strong program in animation, arts and design, which has great synergy with the elder research centre’s projects related to the arts. It’s been a great opportunity for me to connect with and observe Sheridan in this direction over the last few years.

Curious how we say what an artist creates is – their work; and if they do it until they die, we consider it their life’s work or a body of work.  If our life’s work has not been directly in the world of the arts (musician, writer, painter, dancer, graphic designer, animator); or we haven’t been fulfilled through our amateur hours running in parallel to earning a living in the business world; you have to wonder how much of our self-expression is lost or hidden over the journey of our lives.

Is our most interesting work in later life, to be of an ARTful nature?

Postscript

As it happens through our childhood upbringing, my brother and I were gifted by our parents, with an appreciation of the arts – exposed to literature, paintings and music, every day.

My natural early gravitation was to music, though I cannot play an instrument nor read a musical score, it is however always in my head, and I did conduct a forty-piece brass band to an audience of over 200 people when I was 45. Let me see what I can orchestrate next. It might be through writing more than the strokes of a brush or the tap of a musical baton, but who knows what of the simultaneous swells of the ARTful way.

 

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