Posted by suzanne on May 8, 2014
Reading a recent Toronto Star article, I was quite moved by the story about the death of an incredible 21-year old university student named Kristina, who was studying nursing. Kristina donated her organs to help save the lives of five people. One of them, Susan Vieira, a 64-year old retired nurse, received Kristina’s heart. When she found out about Kristina, she decided to go through Kristina’s bucket list, checking off items on her behalf.
To me, this speaks of intergenerational relationships and the natural connection and affinity between young and old. Youth and older adults have so much in common. As Susan and Kristina’s story demonstrates, even in death there is a strong mutual bond. Moreover, we inspire each other. Susan, an adventurous woman, continues living life to the fullest so that Kristina’s vitality, exuberance and zest for life lives on.
Intergenerational relationships refer to social interaction between different generations – connections between individuals of different ages. In the community, the focus is often on relationships where the individuals are not related to each other; hence, beyond the intergenerational connection that occurs in families between grandparents and their grandchildren.
Our society has a tendency towards age-segregation, rather than promoting intergenerational interaction and connection and the strengthening of these bonds. Children go to age-graded schools, adults go to their places of work and older adults have seniors’ centres, seniors’ programs, seniors’ housing and…well you get the picture.
Even within families, intergenerational interaction has decreased due to social changes from employment mobility and shifting family structure. Programs that consciously engage the generations and act to connect them go against the norm of segregation.
In my work, I actively promote intergenerational interaction and have seen the results first hand. I teach a Sociology of Aging class at York University and have consciously cultivated opportunities for intergenerational connection. This has been rewarding for everyone involved.
There are more community programs being developed for the purpose of stimulating intergeneration interaction, such as Cyber Seniors and The Creative Space. In Canada, i2i promotes an intergenerational society. Community is strengthened when the generations come together. There is still much work to be done to help us realize the untapped potential of intergenerational bonds and connection.
Together, we are stronger – we can work towards our goals and reach our vision of a Canadian society for all ages.
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 Jun 28, 2013
Many factors have impacted our image of retirement with the traditional age for retirement influencing expectations in particular. Age sixty-five looms large as a magical age for retirement and seniorhood. Yet, this was not always the case.
Retirement is a social construction. In the past, there was no retirement. There were few elderly people because it was rare for someone to reach old age.
When retirement was first conceived in 1883 by Chancellor Otto Von Bismark of Germany, western society was different. Perspectives were different. Sixty-five years of age was chosen for an individual to receive a pension; however, this was with the expectation that most individuals would never live long enough to actually retire and collect the pension.
A lot has changed. Older adults are healthier and life expectancy has increased significantly over the past 130 years.
Individuals want to remain active and engaged. It is no longer your grandmother’s or your grandfather’s retirement.
Posted by suzanne on May 21, 2013
In my work, I meet seniors regularly, and recently, on separate occasions, I had the privilege of speaking with a 100-year-old woman, a 95-year-old man and a 74-year-old man.
I like speaking with seniors and elders. Our conversations are refreshing and invigorating. The discussion is engaging and stimulating. It is a great joy to speak to interesting individuals with so much to share.
From these conversations, I am reminded that one key to healthy aging is connection. Whether you are an energetic senior or elder or a more frail one, it is important to find the opportunity for connection.
In fact, this is true for human beings across the life course from cradle to grave. I am quite aware that I gain as much from these conversations as the seniors and elders do themselves.
We are social and life is about connection and relationships. It is important that we remind ourselves of this often during our busy lives.
Give your loved ones a squeeze and smile broadly at everyone you meet today – both young and old.
Posted by suzanne on Apr 22, 2013
In honour of National Volunteer Week (NVW) it is a good time to blog about volunteering, community service and charitable work.
Many people want to give back to the community for what they themselves have received. This is meaningful work that makes a difference in the lives of others. Many boomers, seniors and elders who I talk to describe the satisfaction they receive from their volunteer work. This work is important and they find it fulfilling. By helping others, not only do they find their work fulfilling; it better connects them to community and adds to their quality of life.
The report I co-authored with Paula Speevak-Sladowski entitled Volunteering and Older Adults has recently been released. This report is important to share with organizations and communities that want to better engage older adults in volunteer work and community service. This report can help to inform programs, services and policy as we give greater attention to our aging population and create age friendly communities in Ontario and in the rest of Canada. Not only is volunteering an activity that helps individuals remain engaged in the community; research also indicates that it contributes to better health.
Meaningful and fulfilling roles and activities help us all ‘age well’.
Posted by suzanne on Mar 30, 2013
In 2011, the proportion of seniors in Canada grew to 14.4% and the median age rose to 39.9 years. As Canadian society ages, there is great interest and attention given to aging across various fields and disciplines: health care services, caregiving, housing and aging in place, career and occupation, lifelong learning and education, leisure and recreation, and well-being and healthy living, including lifestyle, diet and exercise. Services, products, supports and technological aids for seniors and aging are being developed, provided and offered.
The field of aging is ever dynamic. There is a lot happening. All of this impacts our attitudes and perspectives and how we view aging. We are reshaping aging on so many fronts. The field is evolving and is entering a new stage as we embrace the New Vision of Aging.
I view the second half of life as a time of growth, enlightenment and transformation. As an educator with a passion for sharing information and knowledge, I am particularly interested in lifelong learning and its influence on healthy aging. Learning is lifelong. Learning is social. Engagement in learning can herald deep personal growth and development during the second half of life. It is rewarding and a great privilege to work with so many individuals who are in this vital stage of life.
Be part of the New Vision of Aging. It is an exciting time to be in the field.
Posted by suzanne on Feb 14, 2013
Clearly, later life careers and career options require change. Longevity, greater health and education and financial realities have all contributed to this social imperative to revisit later life career and career planning.
Individuals are working longer. They are embracing productive and engaging roles that they find stimulating and meaningful.
Despite this, career and career development during later life are not often discussed. Seasoned workers, with the skills and talent they bring to the workplace, continue to have much to offer – even as they approach the traditional age for retirement.
More individuals are looking for new career options for the second half of life. They aren’t ready to be tapped on the shoulder and told it is time to go. Older workers who remain with their employers are often dismissed and neglected when it comes to career development, talent management and training and development. What we should be seeing instead is more attention to these issues.
In addition, there is much more opportunity for innovative talent management programs for older workers, such as transition and knowledge transfer strategies and succession planning – all of which support employer and employee interests. This is good for a healthy economy, a productive workforce and a stronger Canada.
My work addresses the career development of older workers and demonstrates why this is important for healthy aging. I believe that individuals will continue to be connected to the workforce in various ways; thus, we need to rethink organizational processes and procedures that slowly move older workers aside. We need to be more innovative with regard to the ways individuals can contribute and be productive.
I notice a growing interest in baby boomers and career. It is always refreshing to discuss issues with others who share a similar perspective. Dear readers – I would enjoy hearing about the issues you see in society and in the workplace. Please share any good examples of best practices that stand out for you.
Posted by suzanne on Feb 8, 2013
Last week, I was in Ottawa attending and presenting at Cannexus13. This is the annual conference for individuals in career services (e.g. career counsellors and career coaches) and academics who study career and career-related issues.
It is no surprise that a growing number of individuals attend this conference every year; career and occupation are important not only for financial security and life style; they are critical for identity and self-esteem and a big part of life.
My interest is in older workers and their career and occupation as well as in the transition to retirement. I am not sure that employees and employers are on the same page when it comes to these issues. I am seeing a growing divide in attitudes and expectations between older workers and their employers and society in general.
The most progressive employers are doing innovative programing for retirement planning as well as providing a bouquet of options for the transition to retirement. Through my presentations, I discuss my model of the new retirement and describe various inspiring examples of retirees who are finding meaning, fulfillment and purpose during the second half of life. These individuals and their experiences are motivating and can help encourage others to seek out options that provide renewal and rejuvenation. This is because the second half of life is an opportunity to ‘seize life’.
Posted by suzanne on Jan 17, 2013
As an Academic Entrepreneur, I see the value of transferring knowledge including research and theory into practice. A key aspect of academic entrepreneurship is moving knowledge production to knowledge, resource and technology transfer within organizations and businesses. By achieving this, knowledge and awareness are promoted within the community and the broader society.
Knowledge translation (or knowledge mobilization) means finding innovative ways to share my research and theory and put it into practice. How am I ‘spreading the word’? I am connecting with the stakeholders who are invested and involved in my work. Hence, in addition to making conference presentations for academic audiences, I am speaking to organizations and groups who are interested in my research. While I continue to write academic manuscripts, I am working on a guidebook to retirement. Finally, I am making a documentary film that will challenge our attitudes towards aging.
What are the benefits of doing this? I am able to build stronger connections to the community by ‘getting out there’ and making myself available to businesses, organizations and individuals. My connections to the community help me to focus on and continue to research the topics that matter to people. Plus, by speaking and presenting, there is greater awareness regarding these issues in our society and I am contributing to the social dialogue.
Transferring knowledge into practice is important. I am passionate about my work and believe my next steps include sharing my knowledge and expertise with those who can most benefit from it. This is the direction I need to take my research because I believe my work can make a difference in people’s lives.
Clouser, M. (2011). The Importance of Academic Entrepreneurs. http://academicentrepreneur.wordpress.com/
Erdös, K. & Varga, A. (2010). The Academic Entrepreneur: Myth or Reality for Increased Regional Growth in Europe? Working Paper IAREG WP1/03g.
Marnett, A. (2010). Professor? It’s ‘Academic Entrepreneur’ to you. http://www.benchfly.com/blog/professor-its-academic-entrepreneur-to-you/
Stuart, T. E. & Ding, W. W. (2006). When Do Scientists Become Entrepreneurs? The Social Structural Antecedents of Commercial Activity in the Academic Life Sciences, AJS, 97–144.