Recoding a Longevity Society: Global Aging Narratives

Widening our lens on aging and longevity

Looking for a break from North American conversation around the social aspects of aging and longevity, where the sameness of content has often numbed us from appreciating the realities of others around the world, I am more conscious these days, of how important it is to put our narrative in perspective. There are global aging narratives emerging in other societies around the world, diverse and often interwoven across cultures and generations. We need to widen our lens.

Gaining a better understanding of these global narratives is also significant at a time when the concept of 21st century globalization is being challenged; socially, economically and politically. Expectations or predictions about how aging and longevity will play out alongside other world plotlines are somehow in for an adjustment in our thinking. As we think of this, widening our lens must help us see issues such as health care and other social policies in a more innovative light.

For these reasons, I chose Global Aging Narratives as the central stream in my new website story, which will allow more opportunity to grow the conversation on aging and longevity. Because of my concentrated interests over the last twenty years, the two tributary streams become Age Inclusive Communities and (in place of what I called entrepreneurship in later life), New Decade Enterprisers. All of this is enhanced further by an inter-generational discussion focus.

Culture, commitment & care, magnified globally

As an example of how my new website focus was inspired, earlier this year in my Annual Conference Roundup post, I listed an event of particular interest, not just due to its global perspective, but also because it pulled together this inter-generational component. Next week – June 8-9, 2017, in Oxford, England – the Association for Anthropology, Gerontology & the Life Course (AAGE) holds their 10th Biennial Conference.

Under the theme “Culture, Commitment & Care across the Life Course”, with reference in the promo flyer, to Margaret Mead’s 1970 book Culture and Commitment, this conference has now finalized the content featuring presenters from around the world including Canada. The diverse panel sessions are composed of 15-minute rapid-fire presentations, which come across like almost too much to digest, yet somehow that fits with today’s “fast tweet” ingestion of thoughts.

These sixteen panel topic areas are universal to whatever continent you live, for example: Age, Place & Community, The Politics of Care, and Science, Technology and Design. But the niche topics are fascinating as they take you to worlds away, where inter-generational experiences with aging and longevity are magnified differently depending on what country you visit. Some of these invite us to ask – what do we share in common, or not, with this topic?


Here is one that would make a great discussion point to compare to the North American narrative:

  • New families, new ageing, new care. The role of men as caregivers and changing patterns in inter-generational reciprocities in Spain. 15 minutes from Carlos Chirinos & Elisa Alegre-Agis (Universitat Rovira I Virgili)

The role of men and caregiving, a topic that I do identify with, based on direct personal experience, is not a point of discussion relegated to the culture in Spain. In fact it continues to become more prominent in Canada, where it has been long been assumed that the role of elder-caregiver has fallen more traditionally to women.

This is changing. There is still much to be said for having a wider dialogue on caregiving in this country and I think if it takes having a look at how this story is told in other countries across the ocean, then the lessons will be richer for us all.


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