So is the special focus of the upcoming conference run by the Aging and Social Change Research Network taking place in Vienna. Sept. 16-17, 2019.
We so easily recognize the general conversation around aging and longevity with its myriad of subset topics such as health and wellness, technology and aging in place, financial planning and retirement and more of late, marketing in a longevity economy.
Yet frequently, as I research, speak and write about all these segmented topics, I reflect that we cannot forget that wherever we are in our life course, no matter how we see ourselves adapting to all this in our relatively affluent North American world, we cannot be ignorant of the fact that there are bigger things in a global context. Macro issues that will require us to make greater adjustments in our aging societies. If we don’t think these macro issues will impact us directly, we may be rudely awakened at some point soon.
In the overview of the Aging and Social Change conference titled Aging in Times of New Nationalisms: Inequalities, Participation, and Policies, the opening lines in the statement bring this home sharply:
“Rising inequality, human migratory flows, and global climate change are the features which, more than any others define the world in which we live at the start of the twenty-first century…In different social groups, individual life courses are affected by these social changes in specific and varied ways.”
For some background, the Aging & Social Change Research Network is international in scope, largely academics, researchers, and practitioners such as gerontologists. One of the two Canadian advisory board members is Dr. Amanda Grenier, professor at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto – and the Norman and Honey Schipper Chair in Gerontological Social Work and senior scientist with Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute. Grenier is a conference keynote speaker in Vienna with the topic “Precarious Aging: Disadvantage, Risk, and Insecurity in Late Life”. For a look at where Grenier’s presentation might take you, read this thoughtful 2018 essay, co-authored with Christopher Phillipson Precarious Aging: Insecurity and Risk in Late Life. One quote here from the essay:
“Our position rests on the assumption that precarity in late life is somewhat different as the individual moves across the life course, exits the labor market, and encounters the care system either as caregiver or as someone in need of care. In this light, care becomes a crucial turning point for amplifying risks and insecurities that are produced over the life course and reinforced in the context of declining social commitments and economic austerity.”
Taking a look at the detailed program featured at this Vienna thinker’s forum, there are more than a few niche topics that were universally identifiable. However, though not always directly flagged to those three macro issues – inequality, migratory flows and climate change, I looked for those that might extend from those, highlighting issues from other parts of the world. Here are two that have some resonance for comparative study, with extracts from the session overviews.
“In a traditional country like India, children have always been the main source on which parents have depended on being cared for in their later years….this millennium, we have seen drastic changes … in the economy, society, and social norms, changing the conventional and traditional family setups. Migration of young persons to cities for work and families becoming nucleated is leading to a decline in filial care of the elderly.”
“The inequality of older adults is reflected in foreign studies in the context of ethnic segregation…for the countries of the European Union the issues of ensuring the well-being of elderly migrants and the indigenous population … are of particular importance. In Russian studies, the inequality of older people is practically not covered. Studies… as a subjective assessment of the position of the individual in society are closely related to the concept of resilience.”
Unfortunately, I have to wait until November 2020, when I attend the International Federation on Ageing Conference in Canada, where under the theme Rights Matter, I will no doubt participate in much the same dialogue around inequality and other global issues that have impact on our variant aging and longevity patterns.
Whenever I attend these kinds of forums or conferences, I realize how relatively fortunate we are in North America. Always taken to muse on the fact that it’s too bad that most of these topics of conversation of global significance are not, but should be, more publicly broadcasted, transmitted as I like to say “from conference to coffee shop’. It is with this greater appreciation of the local versus the global that we will make better-informed decisions as we recode our longevity society in order to adapt to aging in these times of new nationalisms.