Posted by suzanne on Aug 29, 2016
Work and occupation are important across the life course. It is a great thrill to share the most recent research on work and aging at the upcoming CAG annual scientific and educational meeting to be held in Montreal, Quebec. At this year’s conference, I am chairing two Symposia on work and aging. I have invited some esteemed scholars to present their work. The Symposia are to be held on Saturday, October 22nd, 2016.
During the first Symposium, I will be discussing the Redirection Project. During the second Symposium, I am sharing the documentary film Redirection: Movers, Shakers and Shifters which helps bring key issues from my Redirection Project to a broader audience.
Symposium I: Policy Imperatives for Later Life Work
It is very exciting to have scholars presenting on issues surrounding work and aging and gratifying to see this much attention devoted to work and occupation as people age at CAG. As a broad gerontological topic, work and aging is particularly relevant and timely as the large cohort of baby boomers approach later life and gain their own perspective on being mature and experienced workers.
Posted by suzanne on May 25, 2016
This trend is occurring for many reasons. Some people cannot afford to retire. They need to pay bills. They need to be gainfully employed past traditional retirement age. They have not saved enough to retire. They are in debt. In other words, they cannot retire and live on a fixed income.
CBC Radio’s The Current highlighted the challenges of some of these individuals. Listen to the podcast.
Other people want to continue working. They gain a great deal from their paid work. For example, work provides self worth and self-esteem, mental stimulation, physical activity and social relationships. Some of these individuals might have retirement savings, so income generation is viewed as a benefit but it is not the primary motivation. They might be professionals who are highly educated. They believe they have more to contribute; they are not ready to retire.
When I started conducting the Redirection Project and investigating later life career development, career shift and career extension, I recognized that there is a dichotomy among older workers. Some must work; some want to work. It is great to hear from older adults about their diverse experiences (and the surveys are still available for participation). Both of these experiences are important to understand; hence, I developed the on-line surveys to reflect both sets of circumstances. The fact is that socio-economic circumstances have changed a great deal since the retirement system was developed.
Indeed, paid work during later life is important. Paid work represents many things to individuals. Motivations for later life paid work are complex. This new trend is a big shift from the previous model of retirement. It is a big shift within workplaces as well. Policy to address this social change must be carefully handed.
This is why the qualitative and quantitative datasets collected through the Redirection Project are critical for gaining a better understanding of later life career development and employment experiences and informing social policy, organizational programs and career development practice. For more information about the Redirection Project, please visit www.MyRedirection.com.
Posted by suzanne on Jan 31, 2016
It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to focus on Canada’s aging workforce at the recent symposium devoted to this topic. In fact, since presenting at CEDEC‘s Maturing Workforce Symposium held at Cannexus16 a few days ago, I have continued to reflect on some critical issues.
The aging population equates to an aging labour force and this has implications at the individual, organizational and societal level. These complex issues demand employer policy as well as social policy to help address them.
Life spans have increased and individuals are responsible for saving more for their retirement at the same time that financial markets and investment returns are shaky. It is no wonder various polls report that more people expect to continue working past traditional retirement age.
Mature or older workers have different goals and needs than younger age groups. They want flexibility from employers. They need career pathways that help them meet specific objectives.
Both the way we work and the linear career path of the past have changed. This collides with our intergenerational workplace and makes it urgent that employers create new programs and policies to facilitate talent management, training and development and career progression.
Later life career development is new terrain in the work-life landscape. Navigating job change and moving into mentorship roles are difficult tasks. In addition, succession planning and knowledge transfer need to be mapped out. Businesses and organizations are trying to identify and understand what this means in their workplace.
With these powerful demographic and economic forces, we are undergoing a major social and cultural shift surrounding later life work and retirement. We are in a revolutionary transition and social policy is required to help guide and manage this significant change that will affect established social structures in Canada. New evidence-based policies and programs are required.
Finally, these issues are complex. Collaboration and partnership are required to navigate this emerging later life landscape.
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 Sep 30, 2014
Our time as a society is unprecedented in terms of our ability to develop positive opportunities for multiple generations to live, work, play and learn together. We have more forums, research and technology available for exploring these opportunities to make this a “society for all ages”.
One such forum is the upcoming 43rd annual Canadian Association on Gerontology conference Oct.16-18, 2014 in Niagara Falls where the theme is Landscapes of Aging, which is appropriate in that it explores a wide, bountiful horizon of “emerging possibilities”.
At this year’s conference, I am chairing the Saturday morning Divisional Symposium: Intergenerational Learning within Formal Educational Programs: Older Adults and Younger Students. My presentation within this is entitled Intergenerational Learning Partners: Learning through Lived Experience at the Undergraduate Level, focusing on my Sociology of Aging course developed at York University.
In this course last academic year (2013-14), eight older adults were invited into the undergraduate classroom and the students learned empirical and theoretical perspectives on aging and later life through “lived experience”. The majority of the students were in their 20’s and did not inherently have knowledge of this area of study. Both the students and the older adults regularly interacted in this university class, which is an innovative method of linking these generations.
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 Jun 12, 2014
June is Seniors’ Month. In fact, the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat explains that this year’s theme is ‘Aging Without Boundaries’ as we mark 30 years of celebrating seniors. It is amazing to see, highlight and recognize the contributions that older adults make to their communities everyday. It is important to acknowledge their achievements and to support their work.
However, the image and concept of ‘senior’ no longer fits today’s older adults. Older adults might not want to be associated with the term ‘senior’ because they believe it really does not reflect them. Negative images predominate and overshadow any positive potential images. Older adults do not want to be labelled and viewed with the negative connotations associated with the term ‘senior’.
This is an issue that needs attention. To truly celebrate older adults, we need new language and new ways to discuss and honour later life and aging. This is one reason why I am producing a documentary film about healthy aging. With this film, more diverse images and positive role models of later life can be shared.
Moreover, as the population ages, it is about more than having a longer lifespan. It is critical to have a longer ‘healthspan’. It is about finding ways to foster adding more life to the gift of years individuals are blessed with. This is why healthy aging is important.
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.