What does age-friendly mean to you? This month’s news from the world of ageing suggest it is the way in which older adults can remain an integral part of their community. Enjoying lives in which they retain independence, share knowledge, and may even continue learning themselves.
Our starting point is the latest article from AAA Founder Ian Spero, which includes details of research in Ireland which reveals that older people who live in age-friendly environments are four times less likely to suffer from depression and loneliness.
So, how does age-friendly play out in other parts of the world?
Japan in the driving seat
We begin with the news that car giant Toyota has teamed up with Danish architects BIG to design a "prototype city of the future" near Mt. Fuji in Japan.
Revealed at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, Woven City is a bold project trialling the connection between people, vehicles, robotics and smart homes in a “real-world environment”.
It will house up to 2,000 people, across every generation, and contain in-home robotics to ‘take care of basic needs and enhance daily life’, and sensors connected to AI to check resident's health.
Says BIG Founder Bjarke Ingels: “In an age when technology – social media and online retail – is replacing and eliminating our traditional physical meeting places, we are increasingly more isolated than ever. The Woven City is designed to allow technology to strengthen the public realm as a meeting place and to use connectivity to power human connectivity”.
It's a revolutionary plan, and if any nation can pull it off, it’s Japan. We hope its residents get to play as big a part in its learnings as much as the data captured. As Age Action Ireland spokeswoman, Celine Clarke, says in Ian's aforementioned article, “For communities to be truly age-friendly, older residents have to be engaged in shaping the place where they live”.
Live and learn
Human learning is the focus of our next article. It looks at initiatives across several US universities focused on helping older individuals with successful careers to share their knowledge, learn themselves, and work to solve societal problems. The model allows individuals to study, teach, meet fellow entrepreneurs and tap into the youthful energy around campus'.
One example is Tom Schreier. After a successful career in finance, he found himself “too young to retire and desiring to do something very different than what I was doing before”. But after a chance encounter with an old classmate (and now vice president for Notre Dame's university relations), he found himself leading their 'Inspired Leadership Initiative' and teaching a class called Designing an Inspired Life.
Says Elizabeth Isele, founder and CEO of the Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship: “There is no blueprint for what to do with an additional 20 to 30 years, entrepreneuring seniors around the globe are designing their way into new lives, optimizing their life and work experience in non-traditional career paths and creating businesses of their own — from micro- to multimillion-dollar ventures — in unprecedented numbers”.
Academia isn't for everyone, but today the idea of a linear life course of learning, work, then retirement is being turned on its head. With many companies now adapting to an ageing workforce, and 'older entrepreneurs' growing in numbers, it proves the opportunity for cross-generational learning is only just being realised.
Love has no age
According to our next article, closing the generational divide should even take place in public.
Love Island, ITV's smash hit show, sends the young and beautiful to an island to find 'love'. But, author Alex Clark asks, 'why can't older people take part too?'
He argues that “in the era of multiple marriages and conscious uncoupling”, dating apps aimed at the over 50s and love not being the preserve of the young, the show would be all the better for it.
He understands, of course, the show's target demographic is younger people. But considering the emotional rollercoaster contestants go through, having people on the island with the knowledge and experience to add perspective, and maybe a little hard-won humour, would be hugely beneficial.
Says Alex: “The young might find, amid the bougainvillea and flickering firepits, that they could explain to an older person, to whom they are not related, their generation’s anxieties about job insecurity, social media surveillance and climate crisis”.
Behind the click-bait headline, he has a solid point. The show’s had some (very sad) high profile outcomes recently, so it makes you wonder what difference it would make to have a little perspective on hand, while showing younger people that love is essential to every generation.
There's many a true word said in jest.
In other news
We now look at other notable articles that resonated with our thinking, beginning with this thought-provoking piece in The Atlantic in which author Joe Pinsker explores the linguistic challenge of defining what it means to age today.
It's a fascinating read for anyone who cares about the importance of using more positive, inclusive language to describe older adults as they are today. ‘Us’, for example.
Next, is a piece from This is Money, revealing that boomers are increasingly using equity in their property to fund retirement. Since 2015, it says, “homeowners have used property wealth to deliver £13billion in extra income via equity release”.
With many younger people struggling to get on the property ladder, this won't do much for the generational divide. But it highlights the urgent need for a new solution to housing built with every generation in mind.
Heading north we visit Finland, where one town has started offering free gym classes for everyone over the age of 65. The town's Mayor was inspired by the growing popularity of preventative care, showing the healthier people are, the less they may need to rely on the state.
The initiative also helps with isolation, encourages people to make new friends and spend time with people outside their age group. If the age-friendly Love Island did become a reality, sharing advice on good gym workouts would be a great ice-breaker.
We end on a provocative note with this idea from Toronto, Canada.
To raise awareness concerning ageism, authorities came up with a rather novel solution - a face cream that puts years on you. Created to drive traffic to their ageism awareness website, it has the potential to appear a little reductive.
But it comes after research found that: “One in three Canadians admitted to treating someone differently due to age, and 41 percent of older Canadians say they've felt ignored or treated as if they were invisible”. If this month's stories are anything to go by, older adults will be impossible to ignore in the future.
Image used with permission. Copyright Roman Samborskyi.