Picture yourself circulating at a social function. The gathering is inter-generational in its mix. You could be at a wedding, or a wake, or whatever – but you are awake, to the passing conversations. Whenever in one of those scenes, it’s like I’m in a Robert Altman film, where improvised dialogue floats naturally – listening to others out of earshot, while talking about them (as they are about me) in comparison to the last time we met.
Have you heard this Altman-like overlay? “My, look at young Eve, my how she’s grown since we last saw her before she left high school! Yes, and look at Adam, we worked together at the bank some twenty years back, my how he’s aged.” Funny how no one says how Eve has aged, and Adam has grown. We are all aging. But how do we know that we aren’t all still growing?
We still have those kind of Altman film moments. It’s hard to wipe the mildew from the wording in the old scripts we tend to fall back on. Yet for years now, with the increasing awareness of aging demographics and (as I will call it here), the longevity evolution; we have spread some pixie dust into our dialogue, as a global society adapting to a new time. Aging and life expectancy have taken on broader proportions in a new narrative.
Unlocking age-friendly talk
There are those who have captured and spread appropriate language that describes the extent of the possibilities and realities of this new narrative without making it sound like an embarrassing, patronizing commercial message, again as Theodore Roszak said, “…turning the seniority of our citizens into a sales pitch…”
Age-friendly is among one of the many terms that has entered our lexicon, as evidenced by the World Health Organization (WHO) – Age-Friendly Cities initiative launched in 2007, and in the well-articulated Marketing to the Ageing Consumer by Dick Stroud & Kim Walker (2013). The slight problem with this term is that it often keeps us in that Altman-like age locking overlay. Age-friendly, ideally in my mind is not meant to be exclusively the manifesto of a seniors market.
With this in mind, two weeks ago along came this CityLab article in the Atlantic magazine – Prototyping the Age-Ready City. Not necessarily new, this term age-ready caught my ear, not particularly based on the direct focus of this article and certainly not because the sub-title mentioned that overused obnoxious phrase “silver tsunami”.
Rather it was this quote from MIT’s AgeLab director Joseph Coughlin:
“This is not about taking from the young and giving to the old. The fact of the matter is, with any luck, all of us get to be old. So I don’t want us to be age-friendly. I want us to be age-ready. And then we’ll be ready for everyone.”
Yes Mr. Coughlin. Indeed, and while we’re playing at unlocking age-friendly talk, maybe in a way what we might all be looking to ask is – how do we become more “longevity-proof”?