Envisioning Ageing in Place, the title last week, for the National Institute on Ageing (NIA) one-day conference at Ryerson in Toronto.
Indeed as it turns out, what was immediately clear to me, after listening to all the focal points in this subject as presented by the panelists and guest speakers, the “envisioning” cannot be captured simply by that one phrase.
The vocabulary of aging in place is so wide ranging to start with, that even to those of us working, consulting or regularly conferring in the field of aging and longevity end up in a jumble of jargon. With that in mind, what hope do we have of bringing clarity to the envisioning with everyday people who may only hear the phrase in a one dimensional way?
One of the first reactions I typically get in the on the street chat (perpetuated thanks to those TV ads) is that it means retrofitting their older parent’s home with stair lifts, and garb bars in the bathroom for them to stay in their own home as long as possible. Then wearing the family caregiver hat, admitting that their older parents are beyond the stage of DYI, it usually goes to talking about outsourcing services like in-home meal and grocery delivery or some form of in-home health care.
In those everyday conversations, it often amounts to people talking in the third person, about older parents as the them. But it has to be said, it’s really about the us, the we, with our one eye on the future, envisioning our own destiny with aging and longevity. Our other eye fixed on the live stream video of daily life – the commute and the angst of work, living with young adult children, their career angst and social identity, while scrolling through the ongoing play list of other family issues.
Acting like Pixar – “animating aging in place”
Back to the NIA conference. It was useful that some clarity was set right from the start by Sue Lantz, who is the Founder of Collaborative Aging and an advisory Board member for the NIA. Lantz talked about acting like Pixar – “animating aging in place” – animating the options that is, by co-creating, co-locating to build as a whole, what I prefer to call age inclusive communities.
As Lantz went on to say, we are dealing with a diversity of issues across the board that are all interconnected – from creating hybrid models of delivering home care services, to the leveraging of technology to help people navigate the access to and processes of systems. One of the five main challenges she highlighted was the need to create a stronger forum, connecting people to help develop better solutions for the communities of care we want for now and the future.
The four audiences in a forum that Lantz supports, as further referenced on her website, includes participation by older adults, not-for-profits, government, businesses and other care professionals. However, I do think there is a fifth audience that she’s missing and needs to be invited, and that is younger adults. As I’ve said many times, it is a mistake not to, as they are the future recipients and modifiers of any decisions we make now, on how we build on this envisioning of aging in place.
Beyond animation, more to direct action in our communities.
Yet these kinds of forums have already been taking place in various locations for a few years now and in some ways, this NIA Toronto event was like a forum more than a conference; though there could have been a better facilitated interaction with the audience beyond the short mumbled pop-up Q&A’s. There is just so much to chew on, and there comes a point where forum dialogue has to move us beyond animation, more to direct action in our communities.
And that is where this goes. More broadly, it is about aging in community and that by extension is inter-generational in scope, truly collaborative as in the Sue Lantz stream. Which leads to even more of a business case for cross-disciplinary collaborations, which is for the next post of reflections on aging in community.
By the way, you will note the two variations on the spelling, ageing and aging. Where it’s used in the context of some global or national organizations the ageing is often used. However you choose to spell it, the process is what it is.