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AAA™ - In the News August 2019 - Let’s Go Kampung

You may have seen Ian Spero's latest article on two new reports looking at the housing needs of older adults. If not, take a few minutes to see how many of the ideas we discuss and promote are beginning to take root in a global discussion on ageing. It’s very encouraging.

You will also see it features the Kampung Admiralty, or “World Building of the Year” at the 2018 World Architecture Festival, the latest experiment by the Singapore Housing and Development Board. Keep that name in mind as we look through the latest news from around the world of ageing.

Gardeners’ World

As the second fastest ageing city in the world after South Korea, according to the WHO, Singapore is seen as a test bed on helping older citizens age well.

With loneliness a key factor affecting people as they age in urbanised areas, the city has hit upon the idea of increasing contact through gardening.

It's proved popular, with over 1,000 of the plots they made available already leased to residents. 

It isn't just about friendship however, but our mental health.

These green spaces are helping rekindle the spirit of the ‘kampung’, a Malay word referring to close-knit traditional villages.

“When people come together, and grow things, the passion of greening brings out a spirit of togetherness”, says Kay Pungkothai, head of community gardening at the government's National Parks Board. “This is what we call a modern ‘kampung’”, Kay continues, “where people come together, they have a communal space they can go to and look forward to coming to... It really tackles the issue of isolation and depression”.

It's part of a wider push by the city to address their ageing society, which includes offering incentives to companies which retain older workers to retain a sense of purpose, income and social connections.

Gardening may not be as exciting as voice control or self-driving cars, but it's at the heart of the thing we truly need - connection with the world around us and each other.

Digital Dinner

In Finland, they too are facing challenges related to an ageing population, but rather than encouraging people to dig in, they're saying log on.

With one in three Finns set to be aged over 65 by 2070, and tax revenues declining, politicians are betting on a remote care revolution to keep people connected.

They’re watching closely initiatives like remote lunch clubs where a care nurse will log on and connect several older adults to share lunch together online.

The approach means more people can be seen at an appropriate time, that issues can be reported and seen in person faster, and visits can be less intrusive.

Said one lunch group member; “...it's nice to have the company...food tastes better when you’re with others”.

Money is clearly at the heart of this, with an average cost per visit being around 90% cheaper. But as more of us age with tech a big part of our life, and the range of things you can join in on - such as virtual concerts - increasing, it will certainly become the norm.

Said remote care nurse Tiina Kosonen; “I like it and the patients get a lot from it. We look into each other's eyes and talk together face to face”.

Screens will never replace real face to face contact, but there's no ignoring the fact the internet has connected us with the rest of the world. The next challenge is making it easy to find new friends.

Marching On

It's not all about treating the symptoms of ageing in a society unprepared for such a significant demographic shift.

This article from Stria News in the US for example, argues that a resistance to ageism is growing through strategies which are ‘interdependent, intergenerational and intersectional’. These are initiatives that ensure people come together, generations come together, and allow people to age at an equal pace - ie. by ending the difference of women ‘going grey’ and men turning into ‘silver foxes’.

The outcome is that together we can ‘age successfully’, which according to Donna Butts, Executive Director of Generations United, means addressing; “...areas of our lives we're responsible for - but also areas that our institutions, policies and society control”.

Examples are the Village Movement, which helps people age in their communities by providing volunteer and vetted discounted vendor services for its members. Also, intergenerational events and housing programs that unite younger and older people to provide work for adults and help younger people thrive. Says Donna of the latter; “What few people connect is the fact that young people are the other group most likely to report feeling socially isolated. Generations don't, or shouldn't, exist in silos”.

Read the full article to see many more examples of how we can age successfully, but from our point of view just accepting it's not something to fear, but to be embraced, is a big start.

Last But (Certainly Not) Least

We round off this month's news with a range of articles that caught our eye for different reasons.

We kick off with this fascinating piece on how the tables are turning in action movies to allow more older women to take the lead role when it comes to ‘kicking ass’. If you like action movies with a little more character, then you'll like this. As the author writes; “Sixty-two-year-old women don't normally get to be action stars”. The times they are indeed 'a changing.

There's still a long way to go in the world of advertising however, if the next two articles are right (which they are).

First up we have Cindy Gallop, the former chairman of ad agency BBH New York who argues that advertisers can “change the way aging is depicted in advertising by changing ageism within the ad industry itself. If we do that, we can change the way society views aging”. After all, in a world that celebrates youth, older people have something younger people want - and we quote - "We don't give a shit". Brutal simplicity.

Cindy's sentiment is echoed by fellow advertising legend Vicki Maguire of Grey London who says of ageist stereotypes in advertising; “We’re the generation who invented rave culture. Marched with the miners. Fought for Aids funding. But advertising has got us down as a bunch of cholesterol-riddled harpies who can eat only soft food”. The brands (and agencies) that win will be the ones who serve interests not clichés. Noted.

And we conclude with this force of nature. After being filmed at a wedding showing (much) younger revellers how it's done on the dance floor, Shirley Goodman, aged 96, or the 'Dancing Nana' as she is now known has become a global phenomenon. Take note and follow suit. if you're not dancing, you're just watching.

So that's it until next month. Be sure to follow us on twitter, and until then, #StayAgile!

Image used with permission. Copyright Benjamin Combs.