AAA™ In the News November 2019 – Does society need reconnecting?

In an ever-mobile society that allows us to span the globe in seconds, but never learn our neighbour's name, do we need to reconnect?

With "loneliness one of the biggest public health challenges our country faces", according to Baroness Barran, Minister for Loneliness, the urgency is there. But how?

Multi-generational communities are one way – a theme AAA explores in great depth - so we're using this month's news review to see how else we can bridge societal divides, focusing on US politics, technology and good old-fashioned empathy.

In addition, Ian Spero has published two new articles outlining many exciting developments such as the WHO's Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020-2030, a global collaboration to improve the lives of older people, their families and their communities. And he has just shared learnings from his recent invitation to Beijing, China, outlining the opportunity and challenges of a country with an “elderly care” industry set to reach £1.5 trillion by 2030. As he says, if you are thinking about doing silver economy business in China don’t miss it, or further announcements to come.

So, get comfy and spend some time in the world of Agile Ageing.

Feel the Bern

Major societal change can come from the top down, or from grass roots movements. But it's usually one or the other.

This fantastic article in the New York Times explores the need for both in a world where the age gap between those demanding major change - be it for the environment, personal safety, or a prosperous future - is widening.

With a President aged 73, and an average age of 63 for US senators, author Astra Taylor argues that if politics is to truly reflect those it represents, more should be done to increase equity across generations - increasing political engagement, fairness and opportunity. Warns Astra; “[today's] environment is one of the critical lines separating the old from the young”.

Hope lies in the fact Democratic Party challenger Bernie Sanders, aged 78, is hugely popular with younger voters. His [and some others'] embracing of millennial priorities show younger voters their opinion matters. The connection enlivens both.

If he were to be elected, it would make him America's oldest ever President. Proof that older adults have much to offer younger people, and vice versa. We'll certainly stay tuned.

Friend Request

The means by which we'll keep up with every twist and turn of the election is the focus of our next article.

Mobile technology has connected the world, yet seemingly made us more lonely. So, when we saw a new US app has been created to address the loneliness crisis it seemed a bit rich.

What makes Mon Ami different however, according to this article in the Guardian, is that it allows a transparent way for younger people - college students usually - to connect with older adults nearby who simply need companionship.

Said one student, Tanya Tannous; “As young people I think we forget sometimes that there are people that have preceded us and make us who we are. It’s important to connect with generations above us and below us”.

Hopefully it will catch on beyond San Francisco, an area that’s seen its fair share of change thanks to the tech companies (seemingly) adding to the loneliness crisis.

At its heart is face to face, human contact. An experience that can never be fully simulated.

Test Drive Ageing

Or can it? That's what our next piece from the New Yorker Radio Hour looks at, when journalist Adam Gopnik 'tries out being old'.

In 15 years, the number of people at retirement age will outnumber children in the US. This prompted Adam to speak to friends such as artist Wayne Thiebaud, who at 98 is preparing for his next exhibition and keeps active playing tennis - or more 'hit and giggle' as he describes it.

He also visited the M.I.T. Age Lab where he tried on the AGNES suit (age gain now empathy suit), designed to replicate the effect of ageing on the body, met their older adult advisory group the Lifestyle Leaders Group, who inspire much of their research, and learnt more about the impact of technological changes on older people.

For example, the touch screens used more in public need our body's moisture to detect our touch which lowers as we age, and plastic bottles and coffee cups are now thinner for environmental reasons making them harder to grip as muscle strength lessens.

It's a whistle stop tour of ageing for sure, but it's little nuggets like this that hopefully get more people to stop and think for a moment how age will impact us all, a fact Adam himself admits he denies, even after turning 63.

We may be forever 19 in our minds, but we can’t ignore that the world around us doesn't look the same as it did when we were.

And Finally

Now we round up the other great stories from this month on ways to reconnect society.

Firstly, we have this announcement from the Open University that Dr Hannah R. Marston, Research Fellow in Health and Wellbeing Priority Research Area at the OU and Professor Joost van Hoof, Chair of Urban Ageing at The Hague University in the Netherlands, who partnered to recommend “a new smart age-friendly environment for developed cities in the western world”.

Building on the WHO's Global Age-Friendly Cities Guide, Dr Marston said; “For the last 12-15 years the age-friendly city movement has been working to the program set out by WHO. However, technology has been overlooked at the conception and installation of such a program, which given the phenomenal advances of technology in society, cannot be ignored”.

She continued; “The impact of this new proposed framework is formidable both on the national and international landscape. In a world that is seeing an ever-increasing speed of implementation of digital technologies, this seems to be a logical next step to move the age-friendly movement forward”.

Next we look at an area normally reserved for younger adults, that of tech start-ups, with this article listing a number of companies choosing to focus on improving the lives of older Americans.

It explains; "Startups aimed at consumers over the age of 50 account for just 0.7% of VC funding. But a number of companies have begun to tap into those same investors to reach an underserved market with more than 70 million Americans". Keep an eye out for the 'smart socks', they could be next year's top Christmas stocking filler!

And finally we ask, with our tongue firmly in our cheek, if age is something society uses to separate us, to tell us who we should and shouldn’t spend time with, why not abolish it altogether? This interesting piece by Norwegian bioethicist Joona Räsänen certainly makes the case for it.

Joona sums it up; “Is the mere fact of how we present our age – directly by stating how old we are, or indirectly by stating our date of birth (and calculating the years from it) – really that relevant? I don’t think so”. Maybe we should be forever 19.

That's it for this month, until the next AAA news be sure to follow us on Twitter and #StayAgile!

Image used with permission. Copyright victor69