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AAA™ In the News - May 2019 - Wheels in Motion

The 2019 AAA Congress is just around the corner – uniting experts and innovators to help shape a reference framework for Government and local authorities to support the needs of an ageing population.

Hosted at NatWest’s excellent new conference centre on May 14-15th, and supported by TATA Steel, Regents Regeneration and A City Law Firm, a host of international and cross-discipline speakers will drive a packed agenda focused on reimagining our Neighbourhoods of the Future.

Our star-studded list of guest speakers includes Catherine Davies - Deputy Director, Ageing Society Grand Challenge, Department for Health and Social Care; Mike Basquill - Associate Director, Residential, Professional Standards, Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors; Sam Mauger, CEO University of The Third Age; George Crooks OBE, Director of the Digital Health and Care Institute, and Steven Ellis, CEO, Legal & General Home Finance.

Panel discussions will explore design, technology, innovation, fashion, smart cities, finance, ageing internationally, and much more; and we are excited to introduce just some of the projects already underway around the country. With networking lunches and break-out sessions helping everyone to have their say, it is sure to be another fruitful Congress.

You can see the full agenda and register your interest here, but before you do, take a few minutes to catch up with the best articles we shared this month in the exciting world of ageing – including Blue Zones, surfers and a call for a little hedonism.

Purpose Built

We kick off with this piece by journalist Sally Abrahams for Considerable, on how intergenerational living is gaining momentum in the US.

Purpose built communities like New Life Village in Tampa, Florida, prove they not only make life easier but, in many cases, give people a reason to live.

According to Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, a non-profit that promotes intergenerational living, “Studies show that seniors who aren’t isolated are more optimistic and take better care of themselves—and their healthcare costs are less”.

What's more, these communities aren't just about helping older adults have someone to call in an emergency, but also to provide support for kids who've come through the foster care system and their adoptive families, young members of the LGBT community, ex-service people with PTSD, and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.

We're going to see more such communities built with our happiness in mind, but building them takes time (and of course money), so how else can we address issues like loneliness, while supporting ageing in place?

Good Call

Vodaphone believe technology is the answer, as they look at ways it can help ease loneliness and depression in over 50s.

Their new report 'Harnessing Technology to Tackle Loneliness' promotes technology's potential to address an issue they estimate affects around 1.5 million people aged over 50 in the UK.

With loneliness increasing the likelihood of depression and dementia, and doubling the chance of visiting A&E due to inactivity, the tech giant believes technology offers a link to family members and society as a whole to reduce this risk.

Some of the examples are familiar - wristbands that alert a network in case of a fall, and the PriestmanGoode Scooter for Life (pictured), highlighted in our first AAA report.

But Vodaphone also want to help older adults feel more confident online - offering tech Masterclasses to increase confidence, and suggesting GPs should be able to prescribe tech, “such as learning courses, wearable devices and monitoring systems to patients, [while also suggesting] a Government consultation on how to best support independent living in older age”.

It may come as no surprise for a tech company to offer a digital solution to a deep-rooted societal challenge, but as we look to truly bring people closer together through housing, technology does indeed offer an affordable and powerful solution. You need only look at another article we shared this month on technology supporting older prisoners in institutions still trying to respond to our ageing population. And we can't all live in dream communities, so the more affordable choices we have to connect, the better.

Busy Living

But what happens when you don't have access to purpose built communities and cutting-edge technology?

This article from journalist and ageing specialist Richard Eisenberg, gives us a few earthier suggestions by looking at how older adults living in Blue Zones - known for their high concentration of people living past 90 without chronic illness - make their money last and survive when they can't automatically rely on family or the state.

Focusing on Zones in Japan, Greece and Sardinia, Italy, Richard says that beyond the well promoted Mediterranean or Okinawa diet, frequent walking and agricultural activity help keep people healthy and happy.

But interestingly, in Japan especially, some older adults have formed small groups who lend money to each other to reduce the potential stress of being short at any given time. While in Ikaria, Greece (‘The Island Where People Forget to Die’), the lack of places to spend money means people don't worry about material things, with this lack of stress contributing to lower blood pressure and considerably fewer cases of dementia than in Athens.

What links all three however is the presence of community and purpose. Having someone nearby you can rely on, and a reason to get up each morning (or evening in Ikaria, where they've reversed their day and nights). Establish a place to live where we truly mix, and we can remain agile as long as our bodies and mind allow.

In Other News

Competition can be a motivator for longer living too. This article from the BBC showed the benefits of exercise in reversing the ageing process, using examples of 'master athletes' like Martina Navratilova to “represent the extreme end of what is physically possible later in life”.

Across each example seems to be the truth that if our bodies evolved for us to be active, then activity keeps them going for longer. Like community, sport is better than any drug yet invented to prevent conditions to aid our ageing bodies.

This was echoed in a Guardian article introducing a number of regular folk who’ve used sport throughout their life, or found it later to help deal with a variety of personal and health issues.

Depression, loneliness and ill health were all improved through the power of regular exercise, whether that was running, surfing or even martial arts as in the case of personal trainer Eddy Diget, aged 74, who says his lifelong passion for activity made his recovery from bowel cancer rapid and painless. As someone who regularly coaches people in their 50s and 60s, Eddy says; “Mature people are much more aware of the goodness that can come out of training”.

Let's see if sharing is also one of those qualities, after the recent recommendations from The Committee on Intergenerational Fairness on replacing age-specific benefits for older adults, with support for the young to deliver a fairer society.

According to this article in the BBC, the report says that; “many pensioner households are now, on average, better off than their working age counterparts, both in terms of income after housing costs and overall household wealth”.

Conservative peer Lord True said the universal benefits were “justified when pensioner households were at the bottom of the income scale, but that is no longer the case”.

If this seems controversial, then what about this suggestion from journalist Sonia Sodha, who believes that with ageing should come the freedom to act as you like, particularly in you’re in a care home.

Making the case for the ability to embrace hedonism in your later years, rather than simply managing decline in a risk-averse environment, says Sonia; “...perhaps [there’s] no better time to be hedonistic than in your 80s and 90s, when you’ve discharged your professional and family responsibilities and your body isn’t quite the temple it once was”.

Read her article to see what kind of hedonism she's advocating, but [spoiler alert] it may involve digging out your old lava lamp.

That's all for this month, until the next make sure to follow us on Twitter where we and attendees will share the many insights and developments from the 2019 AAA Congress. #BeAgile!

Image of PriestmanGoode Scooter for life, by PriestmanGoode.