Next up in the fall 2019 aging and longevity conference cycle is, in about three weeks, the 48th annual Canadian Association on Gerontology (CAG) conference, in Moncton, New Brunswick. As the title – Navigating the Tides of Aging Together – might suggest, the experience of navigating the waters of aging would not be limited to any one at any age in the life course.
However, the term gerontology is often mistaken in its meaning as if it refers only to the study of those who are already older and/or frail in later life. Gerontology today, in its general meaning, is a multidisciplinary professional field covering the physical, mental, and social aspects and effects of the aging process.
In Canada, one example of the diversity you would find in the work of a professional gerontologist is one I know personally – friend and colleague Suzanne Cook. Suzanne describes her focus as being “the process of aging and adult development within the larger, diverse and dynamic social context, my research examines active engagement in work and leisure activity and how this contributes to well-being and quality of life.”
If you were to attend the CAG conference, as with other events I have attended with a similar audience, you would encounter a wide range of niche conversations in discussions around aging and longevity. Today the focus on the later life journey in the aging process takes in, with a rather wide sweep, those over age 65 and even more liberally 50-plus. As I have often said, we keep moving the line of scrimmage on where later life begins.
To give you an idea of this take on the wide sweep on later life, one of the CAG 2019 keynote speakers is Martin Hyde, PhD Associate Professor in Gerontology at Swansea University in the UK. His topic is Ageing in a Global Context: New Spatial Dynamics of Later Life. Hyde’s research is in “ageing and later life and he has published on a wide range of topics from quality of life, work and retirement, health inequalities and globalization.” Being a big picture person myself, this would be interesting but I can’t attend as I will be having cataract surgery that week.
This conference may be, in its prime interest, directed at an academic crowd as well as practitioners and policy makers and others in the field however, the topic area of aging and longevity is attracting a greater mix of people from other professional groups, businesses and interested individuals.
While much in the sub-topics of conversation are becoming to some degree repetitive for me now that I have been following and attending as many events as possible over the last number of years, for many who are new to exploring and understanding the field of gerontology this is all good, having multiple platforms to choose from around the world.
It has been ten years or so on in my ‘aging and longevity watch’ and that global context will continue into 2020, as a conference partner for the International Federation on Ageing (IFA), in Niagara Falls Canada. There will be breakthrough moments coming as we look at how diverse global populations will navigate the aging tides differently, with a higher probability of growing inequities – and by 2030, a new generation will add voice with their vision of a later life journey.