Posted by suzanne on Oct 1, 2015
This week, Statistics Canada reported that older adults age 65 and over now outnumber children and youth under 15 years of age. This is a new social trend that is expected to continue and in fact grow in the future. This demographic change will certainly impact society.
There are more older adults in Canada than ever before. They are a diverse group with a variety of needs. Furthermore, as they move through the life course, this demographic group continues to have social impact on social institutions and vice versa.
There is work to be done to address issues related to our aging population and bigger conversations that we need to be having about our aging society. Innovative policy, programs and services as well as more research and education about issues and topics related to aging and older age are required to help Canada and Canadians adjust to the social change we are experiencing.
Aging is an interdisciplinary field. It requires specialized as well as holistic, broad-based knowledge. The new collaborative partnership on aging research and education between York University and Trent University that connects their new aging-focused research centres is an innovative example of what is needed going forward.
The new research centres at York and Trent both have an interdisciplinary focus and a mandate to increase the capacity for research and education on aging and aging issues. With this partnership, York and Trent can effectively capitalize on the strengths, perspectives and expertise of scholars and researchers in the field of aging and accomplish even more innovative work. Furthermore, it will enable these two institutions to bring more resources and various viewpoints and experiences to bear on issues related to aging. The partnership will provide a holistic understanding of aging that can inform policy, programs and services for stronger, healthier communities. This is what will assist Canada to adjust to the shifting demographics and changing social needs.
What a coincidence that we are talking about this population shift and what is needed in time for October 1, the day the federal government has designated as National Seniors’ Day.
Going forward, however, there is great need to be forward thinking, innovative and purposeful to address the social and demographic changes we are experiencing.
A version of this blog was posted on LinkedIn on October 1st, 2015.
Posted by suzanne on Dec 9, 2014
What happens when lifelong learners are invited into spaces and places normally reserved for young learners? You get Intergenerational Education. This new and emerging type of education occurs when you mix passion, dynamic innovation and out of the box thinking and bring it all into the classroom. The results and the benefits are phenomenal.
Dr. Chris Alfano, my colleague in Kingston, teaches high school students and older adults in an intergenerational music program. The vibrancy of this classroom is incredible and it has been my pleasure to observe this class on more than one occasion. Chris and his music class received some much deserved attention for the incredible work they all do to bring music into people’s lives through intergenerational education. Great joy is created when they share what they have learned and bring music out into the community.
I teach Sociology of Aging at York University using an intergenerational education model. I have been thrilled to see this new trend catching on. Recently, I visited two intergenerational education class opportunities. This confirmed the rich learning potential for young and old alike.
Last week, I visited the University of Victoria to observe an interdisciplinary, intergenerational class as well as speak with the professors leading this course (The YUFA Teaching and Learning Development Grant that I received from York University facilitated my visit). The UVic students are enrolled in ‘Exploring Aging through Film’. What an inspired idea for an interdisciplinary university course that brings young and old together while strengthening links between research and teaching. This course is the brain child of Dr. Holly Tuokko and her colleagues. The support for this creative course, the vibrant learning environment and the high student interest were striking. It was wonderful to see the development of intergenerational education and how far it has progressed on the West Coast.
My colleague at York, Dr. Gary Turner, also incorporated intergenerational learning into his class for the first time two weeks ago. Again, everyone was pleased with the results and I have every expectation that he will do it again next year.
These classes use Experiential Education to engage students, both young and old. This model has rich potential.
There is a new brand of education emerging in the field and it demands that we pay close attention to it.
Posted by suzanne on Nov 28, 2014
Volunteers have a highly valued role in society. Volunteer efforts are very important from coast, to coast, to coast. This is because they help keep communities, non-profit organizations and charities going.
Volunteering is a great way to stay active and also to contribute and give back to the community. It is socially and mentally stimulating and is good for aging well.
I am always pleased to hear about the ways that older adults volunteer in the community, especially the length of time they have been volunteers and the different volunteer roles they hold.
I recently wrote a short piece about volunteering that appears in the Fall/Winter edition of Revera Living Magazine. Please read it here.
Posted by suzanne on Aug 3, 2014
This August, it is timely to recognize leading-edge American social activist Maggie Kuhn for her work in the field of aging. August 3rd marks the 109th year since her birth. Maggie was a champion of aging and the later years. She founded the Gray Panthers in August 1970.
Maggie’s work is notable not only because she was ahead of her time with her vision. She also broke stereotypes and, at age 65, embarked on the most important work of her life. In fact, rather than accept being pushed into a quiet retirement by her employer and societal pressure, she chose to take action and work for the rights of older people. After being forced into retirement from the Presbyterian Church, Maggie, along with her friends who found themselves in similar circumstances, organized and founded the group that became the Gray Panthers. The organization focused on the issues of older people including pensions and pension rights, health care and age discrimination. Gray Panthers also addressed the larger social issues of the time such as the Vietnam War.
“By the year 2020, the year of perfect vision, the old will outnumber the young.”
Maggie was a charismatic and energetic leader. She advocated for older adults to have a voice and the opportunity to provide input into programs, practice and social policy. She encouraged older adults to stay involved and take action on social issues. In doing so, she started a cultural revolution.
Maggie also believed in the power of intergenerational connection. One of her mantras was ‘Young and old together’. Under her guidance, Gray Pantners came to represent the possibility and power of later life and to stand for social and economic justice and peace for all ages. The organization’s motto is ‘Age and Youth in Action’ very much echoing Maggie’s sentiments. Maggie herself demonstrated how older adults can be active in the world, working for social issues that are important to them.
“Learning and sex until rigor mortis.”
Until her death at age 89, Maggie continued her work as an activist and advocate. She redefined aging and is a role model to all of us – women and men, young and old alike.
“There must be a goal at every stage of life! There must be a goal!”
Maggie Kuhn was a visionary leader. She inspired many people to view aging differently. She left an incredible legacy. Unfortunately, ageism, discrimination and lack of intergenerational connection continue to be issues that require attention in our society. These are barriers to a cultural revolution that would shift our society from a youth-oriented culture to a society for all ages. In our aging society, we need more people like Maggie to help move the cultural revolution forward.
Posted by suzanne on Jul 15, 2014
‘Young and older together.’ This was a mantra of Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Grey Panthers in the United States. Maggie was ahead of her time in recognizing aging as an issue and redefining what aging means in society.
As human beings, we need strong bonds and connections to individuals of all ages. It is up to all of us to cultivate these interactions and relationships so we can reap the many rewards. Individuals and communities benefit from intergenerational experiences.
Recently, I was quoted in the Grey Bruce Kids magazine about intergenerational interaction. Kristen B. Dyer, the author, encourages children and their parents to seek out or create intergenerational opportunities. Please check out the article “Intergenerational Bridges’ in the June issue.
Catch the joy of intergenerational interaction!
Posted by suzanne on Apr 2, 2014
Our lives are most meaningful in the ways we touch the lives of others. This is the great beauty of life and what provides the deepest meaning and fulfillment.
When we are of an age, how will we continue to associate, interact and engage with others? As we age, some of the best moments are when we are in the company of those who are of a different age. Yet, lives are often lived separately; we segregate the generations to different domains, spheres and social structures. When we separate the ages in our society, we make this special interaction more difficult to achieve.
It is difficult to find suitable language to describe those who are older but are also young at heart. They are seniors and elders in comparison to my age. But I don’t perceive them with the connotation that the word ‘old’ describes. When I get to know them as individuals, their age disappears. In fact, when the generations interact and intermingle, we realize we have much in common after all; any differences evaporate through caring, loving and laughing together.
It is wonderful to see the young inspire the old and the old inspire the young. This is what can be achieved through intergenerational interaction.
Posted by suzanne on Mar 21, 2014
This week, I was invited to Peterborough by Hatch to speak to older adults in the community about later life empowerment through self renewal, challenging roles and community innovation during the New Retirement. My presentation was sponsored by CARP. This is some coverage in the local media about my presentation.
It was a fabulous evening: we had a great turnout and people stayed after my presentation for an hour-long Q & A session. We discussed ‘retirement’, volunteering and social enterprise. Hearing members of the audience’s views on this topic was interesting. Not all older adults want to volunteer; some want to do more. Moreover, some want to earn money for their extensive knowledge, skill and expertise. This indicates to me that there is a shift occurring within attitudes and expectations for ‘retirement’.
I engage groups and help them see opportunities – the opportunities of later life. In partnership with Hatch and Peterborough Economic Development Business Advisory Board, I am offering a workshop series for adults who are in the Third Age and are interested in starting a new enterprise – something that generates revenue and gives back to the community. Please contact me (on my contact page) or visit Hatch for further information.
Posted by suzanne on Mar 14, 2014
My scholarly article entitled Redirection was recently published in The Gerontologist. In this paper, I discuss the sociological and psychological process of later life career development as an individual enters a new career stage. To date, this has received little attention in the career development field.
Retirement is changing. There is great knowledge, skill and experience that older adults can transfer into new roles. I predict that organizations and communities will begin to recognize this.
The fact is that more people will reach this life stage as life expectancy continues to increase. More individuals will be looking for the next challenge.
What is your next challenge?
Posted by suzanne on Jan 24, 2014
Older adults are lifelong learners. They like to learn new things and there is a need to celebrate the learning of all age groups. This is especially the true for seniors. The myth that older adults don’t like technology is being challenged; more and more older adults are embracing technology.
Often, older adults jump at the chance to be shown how technology can make a difference in their lives and how they can better use it. I hear anecdotal reports of grandchildren teaching a grandparent how to use a cell phone or iPad. The wonders of technology can be taught intergenerationally, as the program Cyber-Seniors and the great new documentary film of the same name indicate.
Older adults’ openness to technology is evident when statistics on technology use are reported. More than half of seniors are on-line. Those age 65 and older use the Internet and email, with technology users usually active on-line on a daily basis. For example, among those seniors who use the Internet, 70% go on-line daily. This breaks stereotypes many of us hold of older adults!
Seniors like to research government websites, obtain financial information, such as stock quotes or check mortgage rates, or search for health information on-line. And 44% of seniors age 65 to 73 watch videos on-line, with 34% of them visiting social media sites. In addition, a large proportion of seniors – 7 out of 10 – own a cell phone. Check out the PEW report on Older Adults and Internet Use.
Stimulating curiosity and intellectual growth and development are the real joys of learning. Grey hair or not, we are all lifelong learners! Sometimes older adults need support and encouragement to try something new. It is time to debunk negative stereotypes of aging and develop more intergenerational programs. There is great joy and vitality when the generations interact. A special opportunity to view Cyber-Seniors is available through the Peterborough International Film Festival this weekend.
Posted by suzanne on Jun 13, 2013
June is important to recognize as Seniors’ Month in Canada. This is good reason and an excellent opportunity for communities to celebrate seniors and the role they play in society, to increase awareness of seniors programs, services and policies and to redefine aging and seniorhood.
Despite the aging population in Canada, unfortunately, there have been few innovative and creative celebrations and events in honour of Seniors’ Month.
One stood out: I attended some of the Seniors’ Month offerings in Peterborough, Ontario. I met some amazing seniors and people who care about seniors. The programs and events in Peterborough were wonderful.
There is a lot happening this month for Peterborough Seniors’ Month. Check it out!