How freely our older friends and loved ones can move around once lockdowns are relaxed is uncertain. This makes it impossible to ignore the need for a better approach to how our communities are set up.
If we expect grandchildren to see grandparents in a world where pandemics are only predicted to rise, finding a way to live while supporting one another and realising common values is paramount.
Helping build those neighbourhoods and communities is AAA’s objective. So, we're proud to be working with The International Organization for Standardization to help develop an ISO framework for Multigenerational Neighbourhoods. Learn more about our virtual workshop May 27th and find out how you can get involved. We are uniting a who’s who of cross-sector experts and thought leaders to bring this goal to life.
How we live today, and the impact COVID 19 has had on it, is our focus for AAA in the News for May.
For the Record
We begin with this moving piece by writer and retirement home resident Elaine Yaffe, for Slate Magazine. It’s a sobering reality check for anyone complaining about running out of Netflix choices as their biggest lockdown trial.
Writing from her retirement home in the US, which has been sealed off due to Coronavirus, she documents her struggle to identify what day it is without the regular activities enjoyed by residents. Elaine now uses her newspaper to be sure of the date.
She writes: “Last week, they locked the doors and sealed them with yellow tape, giving this residence for 100 old people the appearance of a crime scene. Then they posted the signs announcing that no one from the outside—not family, not friends, not vendors, not anyone—could enter”.
Her writing is beautiful in its simplicity, and if we didn't know the truth of what the virus has done, you might think it extreme.
Portuguese author José Saramago often explored societies that turn on their head very suddenly, after a surprising societal shift. In their extremity, they offer a wake-up call to those who never think it possible. Writing like Elaine’s is doing the same. They’re words we cannot ignore.
Next, we go from one extreme to another in this short, but important piece in the BBC.
It highlights that amongst stories of families bonding through memes and TikTok videos (the social media platform winning at lockdown), there are other realities for those having to stay apart – while living together.
The Karims are a family of 13 living in Bradford whose household spans four generations. Luckily, they have a good garden space and rooms they can nominate for those who may be infected. But, with family members working in healthcare services and other key workers, and elders in their 80s, close familial lines have had to be redrawn for the foreseeable future, with some members having to restrict themselves to parts of the house.
With people living in multi, or intergenerational households citied as one of the reasons for the virus spread in Italy and Spain, this must be considered when planning homes of the future for everyone.
They may have to be designed to allow families to interact and support one another, while also allowing necessary protection or independence.
In it Together
This need leads us into a wonderful piece for The Hill by psychologist Derenda Schubert, Ph.D.
Derenda argues that Coronavirus has proven “the need for housing where the young and old live side by side is more vital than ever”.
Current policy in the U.S., however, dictates that funding to create affordable housing development typically prioritizes one community in need at any one time. This systematic separation of communities creates silos, she believes, creating further division rather than bridges across communities and generations.
In particular, says Derenda; “In our COVID-era, we are worried about the impact social isolation is having on all of us, especially our elders. In intergenerational neighbourhoods, people are creating safety nets to ensure their neighbours have the groceries and medicines they need”.
She acknowledges there are many considerations in housebuilding already. “Yet, age-friendly housing criteria can make it so people age in place, which will create less need downstream”.
Policies that makes age-friendly a criteria would encourage greater safety, interaction and support across the generations. This would in turn create communities that might not have to shut off the vulnerable when threats to normal life appear, for want of a better solution.
We are all in this together, but it doesn't feel like it when you're not allowed to see anyone.
Some good news
We turn now to more uplifting stories from the world of ageing.
We begin with the promising news that educators are beginning to see the commercial value in the longevity market. A new course at the Stanford Graduate School of Business is exploring why business executives and entrepreneurs should be turning their focus on the 50+ demographic.
Says the article; “The 10-week longevity business class, which was capped at 56 MBA students, was wildly popular, with a waiting list of 30. It ended in mid-March and will be offered again in Spring 2021”. Have a read to see some of the interesting case studies. It might get you in the mood to go back to university.
You could start here. The Arts Society, the UK’s leading arts education charity, has announced a series of free online lectures, author Q&As and film screenings - targeting those aged 70+. Aimed at educating, entertaining and informing over the next three months, there is also a package of social media training on offer.
Says Florian Schweizer, the society’s chief executive, “Local committees have all been chatting away on forums and are responding so well to the crisis. It really has been lovely and quite moving to see things that would have probably taken years to organise, happen within two or three weeks. I’m really proud of our members”.
Next, we celebrate the older adults working in healthcare, who have either delayed their retirement or returned from it to help care for those in need right now. This piece from PBS in the US begins with Dr. Debra Caroli, who had considered retiring at the beginning of April after tiring of her 60-70-hour work weeks. Says Debra; “Even if I was going to retire, I wouldn’t. It’s all hands on deck”.
Thank you to every single person doing whatever they can to help those in need get by, or get better. While a special thank you must go to Captain (now honorary Colonel) Tom Moore, who has not only just turned 100 but marks it by having raised £30 million for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden.
If one person has represented the struggle to respond to the Coronavirus in the UK it is Captain Tom.
Until next month, be sure to follow us on Twitter for more great stories and stay safe.
Image used with permission. Copyright kzenon.