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AAA™ In the News July 2019 – Older and Bolder

Leading experts and thought leaders are united in promoting the value of multigenerational neighbourhoods, as compared to the negative impact of “elderly ghettos”. This was a key takeaway from this year’s AAA Congress and it’s a common denominator connecting several of the articles in this month’s AAA News.

If you missed Congress, here is a link to a short video which sheds light on plans for a pioneering multigenerational Neighbourhood of the Future pilot project in Coventry. And here AAA Founder Ian Spero tells how the project came about in an interview for Housing Association Magazine.

Among other shareworthy stories from the world of ageing, we highlight a growing breed of older online influencers, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) response to what they call “the most socially acceptable prejudice on the planet”, and this surprising insight about the Climate Crisis.

Climate Control

With Climate Crisis activism increasing pressure on politicians, brands and consumers to change how we live, new research has suggested our ageing population must also play its part.

Most global energy consumption comes from domestic energy use – accounting for 40% of global demand – which led US researchers to focus on the people living in those houses.

According to this article from the Harvard Gazette; “Studies of residential energy use have typically focused on structures’ physical attributes and building technology rather than the role of buildings’ occupants”. It is important we look closer at this as; “Overall global energy demand is expected to rise by about 60 percent between 2010 and 2040”.

What they found was that as we age, our dependence on energy increases, a factor exacerbated by rising temperatures which leads to a greater need for cooling.

Said Hossein Estiri, a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Laboratory of Computer Science and one of the new study’s authors; “Population aging is going to have huge impacts in the future, starting in the near future. There’s going to be a lot of problems that we’d better start thinking about… It may mean thinking of innovative building solutions for elderly residences, like incorporating solar panels and making energy-saving changes to building design”.

This is important research as findings will go on to inform building practices for years to come. If climate hero Greta Thunberg’s generation are to inherit a planet they can thrive in, we all have a part to play.

House Mates

In addition to improving what we build and where we live already, there is growing interest in rethinking who we live with.

Coverage of intergenerational living is increasing, but this article from the New York Times was of interest as it looked at a growing movement in the US for older adults to live together, much like college style dormitories.

With loneliness on the rise, even for those with children, and the ratio of family caregivers to more than halve over the next 30 years, people are turning to each other for support.

In what's been dubbed 'The Golden Girls' living arrangement, people buy a home together and "share expenses, chores and other activities" to combat loneliness and reduce the cost of living.

According to the article; “Unlike more traditional retirement communities, these houses are set in neighbourhoods that include people of all ages and are often more affordable than traditional retirement communities”.

This follows initiatives like ‘Aging in Cohousing’ by the Cohousing Association of the United States to help those wanting to form or join a cohousing community and research that found 85% of Americans saying that “if they need care in their old age, they would prefer a setting with opportunities for intergenerational contact over one with only a single age group”.

The article concludes; “The loneliness of older people is a real problem, but it is solvable. The first step is to be much more creative about how we age”.

We couldn’t agree more, with the pyramid of older adults over younger people changing to look more like a column [see Harvard article], many more of us may be living with friends old and new as we age. Hopefully with people as interesting as these guys...

The Power of Influence

When we think of social media influencers we may think of pouting faces and murky brand sponsorships. But platforms like Instagram are allowing a new breed of older stars to use its reach to promote creativity, environmental activism and even positive mental health.

According to this article from BBC Three, they are older adults; “living, and posting, with attitude, while teaching us to embrace our differences, and dress or be who we want to be at any age”.

The main difference is these stars are using the platform to simply be themselves. They're not following trends and pretending to live a perfect life. They're at an age where they don't need anyone's approval and this sense of freedom radiates from their posts.

For example, @saramaijewels (Sarah Jane Adams, 'the boho activist') began “hashtagging all her posts with #mywrinklesaremystripes after a makeup artist asked if she would like her wrinkles covered”. Said Sarah, “I have no desire to get rid of them. It’s ridiculous that we’re living in a world where showing an unfilled, makeup-free face is considered ‘brave!’”

Or @accidentalicon (Lyn Slater, 'the academic icon') who built an online following after being mistaken for a fashion insider. Said Lyn; “I am in my 60s, and I am the most visible I have ever been in my entire life”. Even better her Instagram following 'skews young', which she says is not deliberate. “I’m not 20. I don’t want to be 20, but I’m really freaking cool”.

According to Marie Stafford, the European Director of The Innovation Group; “In the future, ageless living will become the norm for all of us, as continuing advances in longevity make extended healthy lives a reality”.

Have a read, follow them and who knows, it may inspire you to live bolder, or at least care less about what others think.

Best of the Rest

It seems apt that as more older adults are leading the way in redefining ageing and educating younger people about what it means to age, we saw this article on new research from Cornell University showing “...for the first time that it is possible to reduce ageist attitudes, prejudices and stereotypes through education and intergenerational contact”. With ageism described by the WHO as “the most socially acceptable prejudice on the planet”, they will use this research to inform its anti-ageism strategy.

They might do well to call on the services of our older Insta stars, as according to this opinion piece from Bruce Horowitz for USE Today, “People who report feeling younger actually tend to live longer and healthier lives — and they don’t tend to have as much of a pattern of decline”. It seems staying young at heart may be good for your heart.

And staying connected. We finish with this interview by live in care providers Elder, speaking to Norwegian start-up No Isolation about their “mission to reduce loneliness and social isolation through technology”.

Following their Nesta 'Smart Ageing Prize' win, No Isolation's co-founder Karen Dolva spoke about KOMP, their communication device that helps older adults easily stay in touch with their family. With just one button, the app is delivered through a screen which the user simply switches on to receive calls, images and messages. Of the device's potential, says Karen; “Our goal is very simple: to make sure no one has to live in loneliness”.

On that note, be sure to stay in touch with AAA via Twitter where we share great stories like these every day. Until next month, #StayAgile!

Image by @iconaccidental via Instagram.