If not now, when?

Certainty. It’s a word in rather short supply at the moment. One we are hearing more of, however - is adaptability. Being agile right now seems more important than ever.

We’ve focused this month’s news review therefore, on people and organisations doing what they can to change the status quo. To find new ways of doing things and finding a sense of normality wherever they can.

New Narrative

We begin in a city that’s made headlines recently for its approach to supporting the needs of its population through lockdown.

Since becoming the UK’s first age-friendly city region, Greater Manchester has worked hard to build a new narrative for ageing. 

This piece from the Centre for Ageing Better, focuses on its latest drive, using International Day of Older Persons to promote the value of older people instead of their vulnerabilities.

According to GM Combined Authority's Nicola Waterworth, the campaign aims to promote strong counter messaging to the “persistent negative stereotypes and language around ageing”.

‘Valuable, not vulnerable’ unites organisations across the district to promote positive stories of older adults responding to the challenges of coronavirus, creative projects like Connect Fest (part theatre show, music festival and soap opera), webinars, and a local photography competition that will lead to a city-wide billboard campaign.

Says Alex Rotas, competition judge and professional photographer; “As we get older, we become more diverse, not less. Yet the language used in the pandemic lumps us all together as the ‘over 70s’ or the ‘over 50s’, and then frames us all in terms of our vulnerability”.

Manchester is finding its voice in many ways. We look forward to seeing if this inspires more cities to reject ageing stereotypes and show the power of age diversity.

One such group doing just that – economically this time – is the theme of our next article.

Business Time

The BBC's CEO Secrets series invites entrepreneurs to share their advice. Currently, they are looking at businesses that have launched during lockdown, in particular female entrepreneurs aged over 50.

They introduce us to people like Feyi Raimi-Abraham. After being furloughed from her job as a community education co-ordinator, Feyi became a full-time carer for her mother, who has dementia.

While caring for her, she realised the objects used to offer comfort through reminiscence didn't speak to her mother, who is from Trinidad and Tobago. Rather than the products on offer, said Feyi; she wanted to “talk about Hibiscus flowers and hummingbirds and listen to Calypso music”.

This inspired Feyi to create her own business, The Black Dementia Company - offering ‘dementia care aids with cultural symbols aimed at people who grew up in Afro-Caribbean households’.

Across all the examples, we learn that it’s the life experience, the people skills, and the knowledge that time waits for no one, that drives these older entrepreneurs to turn their idea into a reality.

With the Chancellor Rishi Sunak making headlines of his own recently, warning that many of us may need to seek new opportunity, these are people creating a new narrative for themselves in the face of ongoing uncertainty.

In Feyi's words, if you’re thinking of doing something yourself; “Don’t stop and wait to have all the ducks in a row for your business idea, because it will never happen”.

Rishi, presumably, would approve.

Pedal Power

If it's sporting glory you've left until your later years, you'd be forgiven for thinking it’s too late.

Our next story, suggests otherwise.

After seeing an older dementia sufferer with a double hip fracture go from thinking she may never walk again, to walking unaided in six months, then-TV producer Jon Ingar Kjenes knew more people needed Motitech.

By combining specially adapted bikes with screens displaying 2,000 videos from 400 countries, his company is helping a growing number of older adults explore the world from the comfort of home.

The impact on participants has been significant and immediate, with some care homes reporting “reduced anxiety, frustration and confusion. Better sleeping and eating patterns. Less need for painkillers and other medicines. And crucially, more activity”.

What’s more, as Motitech has spread from its native Norway to Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Europe and now 24 care homes across the UK, it has connected older adults in a global competition.

Now in its third year, Road Worlds for Seniors has “inspired thousands of older people to cycle the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of kilometres without leaving their care homes”.

Through this competition, and the sight of familiar locations that can trigger memories, participants, and those around them have been able to connect in a new and more positive way.

With more of our lives now spent at home, it seems possible they’ll need to introduce a wider range of age categories. Perhaps sporting glory lies within us all? 

In Other News

We look now at the other stand out articles from this month. We start with this substantive analysis of research from the European Journal of Ageing, into the reasons older people want to work into retirement. Hint - it's not just a fondness for the yearly staff away day.

Supporting people's health and well-being during lockdown is the focus of our next piece from the BBC, featuring one older adult's first experience of VR and how it reignited her creativity.

Prior to the experience, said Su Wall, 85, from Pwllheli; “I had done weeks of nothing”. But after getting used to the new technology, she continued, “It seemed to unlock the door”. 

After experiencing life at the edge of earth's atmosphere, and on a Caribbean beach, she now likes to imagine what life were like if she were a turtle. “Don't they have a lovely life, sailing along and gobbling up jelly fish? Wonderful”.

This fascinating piece by Wharton professor Mauro Guillén also caught our eye as he believes the hype around millennials is overblown and inaccurate. By 2030, the most influential group economically and politically, he argues, were not born between 1980 and 2000. Another hint – they’re being studied a lot right now due to their drive to keep working.

We conclude this month's new with possibly the UK's latest bloomer.

Following the overwhelming success of his fundraising efforts this summer, national hero Capt. Sir Tom Moore has started his own podcast to share the inspiring stories of fellow older adults, and help combat loneliness.

So far, Sir Tom has interviewed a bodybuilder aged 83, a skipping pro aged 73, and a veteran of 52 marathons, aged 90.

In Tom's own words, “I hope The Originals podcast will help encourage everyone to start a proper conversation with an older person. We truly are the originals and we have more in common than you may think – we have hundreds of amazing tales just waiting to be told”.

Sometimes all we need to do is listen. And if we can't do that now, then when?

That’s it for this month. Until the next, be sure to follow us on Twitter and #BeAgile!

Image used with permission. Copyright: Brett Jordan on Unsplash.