Tuesday April 10th, 2018 07:24

In the News April 2018 – Revolutionary Thinking


How do you start a revolution? In our case, you call together the best thinkers to tackle what a recent WHO survey revealed as the most pressing issue for older adults and community leaders worldwide: Housing.

Taking place May 9-10th at NatWest’s London HQ, Neighbourhoods of the Future 2 will unite like-minded decision makers and thought leaders to transcend common barriers to progress.

The think tank is by invitation only, and we’re encouraging ‘unusual suspects’ to apply. Learn more about the event and how to apply in Ian Spero’s latest blog.

You can also learn about WHO’s response to the housing issue, here. According to Alana Officer, who leads their Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities, they are calling for housing practices proven to foster healthy and active ageing. They hope to take the best of what they receive from cities and communities and share them with other cities and communities.

First however, enjoy this month’s collection of the best stories from the world of ageing, including a new world record, the future of advertising and perhaps our favourite ‘ageing’ country – Japan.

Hear Hear

We kick off with this great new ad campaign for Amplifon hearing aids. That might not sound exciting, but its maker LOLA MullenLowe is challenging outdated perceptions of ageing by asking whether the ad’s protagonist (a suave, active older man) is ‘Old or Not Old?’

The ad pulls no punches. Our hero has a hip replacement, lags behind his grandchildren and as we later discover, wears a hearing aid. But it’s his attitude that drives the ad. He’s fully engaged with life, chooses not to drive for environmental reasons, and still has ‘flow’.

According to this article on LLB Online, the ad’s message is “not only aimed at Amplifon clients and [a] new generation of older people, but society itself, since it presents old age as a stage in life to continue being active and doing the things we love”.

Executive Creative Directors of LOLA MullenLowe Barcelona, Nacho Oñate and Nestor Garcia said the campaign “aims to give our fathers and mothers the place they deserve within society, but also so that all of us who have not yet reached that point in our lives, begin to imagine our future from a different perspective”.

We anticipate more great, provocative ads like this. Ones taking societal norms head on with wit and candour. Because, as the article says; “people live an average of 34 years more than previous generations”. That’s a lot of customers!

Young At Heart

Another industry sure to redefine its prospect is fitness targeted specifically at older adults. With growing evidence on its importance, such as this two-year US study on the impact of exercise on ageing hearts, more companies will no doubt look to promote the benefits of using exercises tailored to our ageing bodies.

According to study lead Dr Ben Levine, they divided its 45+ year old participants into two groups – one doing non-aerobic exercise three days a week, and the other doing high-intensity (interval) exercise for four or more days. The results, according to Levine, were ‘dramatic’. “We took these 50-year-old hearts and turned the clock back to 30- or 35-year-old hearts”, he said.

Interval training, explains the NPR article covering the study, is “4 minutes of intense workout and 3 minutes of recovery [and] was found to be particularly effective as it forces the heart to function more efficiently”.

“The sweet spot in life to get off the couch and start exercising [if you haven’t already]” continues Levine, “is in late middle age when the heart still has plasticity. You may not be able to reverse the aging of the vessels if you wait”.

A big part of our work is changing perceptions of what is possible in later life. Studies like this prove that we still have so much to learn. But if the thought of interval training to shave years off your heart health sounds a little arduous, then why not take inspiration from this amateur swimmer who just shaved 35 seconds off a world record, aged 99?

History in the Making

After taking up swimming again in his 80’s (having stopped at the outbreak of WWII), Australian George Corones has just smashed the 50m freestyle world record in the 100-104 age category.

Speaking to the BBC, a modest George said; “It was an exemplary swim for me, well balanced… and I was ready to hit the [wall] at the end very hard with my hand”.

It’s clear having a particular mindset will help you achieve such a feat, but his was not the conditioned body of a lifelong athlete. This is a man who realised being active was the best way to continue enjoying life, and now he’s a world record holder!

In his own words; “At this age it takes a while to get going… you get exhausted much more easily, but if you do it sensibly, the rewards are astronomical”. A longer, healthier life certainly sounds rewarding enough.

And Finally…

Aside from age-defying physical feats, there have been many other great stories that caught our eye this month. Here’s a quick run-down of the most popular.

First up is this interesting piece by Ken Bluestone, a director of CommonAge and head of policy for Age International. Writing in the Guardian, he warns there is a significant demographic change coming across the Commonwealth that is being ignored. It is that “the absolute size of the older population will increase by at least 100% in the next 25 years”, and the “fastest growing segment of the population is the oldest old – those aged 80 and over”.

Each country’s experience will of course vary, but as we know, Japan can offer the perfect case study for what they might expect.

This month’s update on the world’s ageing pioneers comes courtesy of a new two-part BBC radio show Japan: New Ways to Grow Old. It offers a charming insider’s perspective from the country’s older community on how housing, fitness, shopping and work are all changing in response to an ageing population.

The BBC is also exploring the issue a little closer to home, with the second series of Holding Back the Years. The 10 part TV series wants to help us make the most of our lives, at whatever stage that may be, by looking at housing, money, health and much more. They don’t stay on the iPlayer forever though, so don’t wait too long!

And we end with this popular article from writer Karen Dobres, asking in the Guardian ‘I’m 50. Am I too old to be a model again?’ Have a read to see if she was able to “harness her ‘grey power’ to once again make it in an industry driven by youth”.

That’s it for this month, until our next update be sure to follow AAA on twitter, and CSL for news on creative ways to help those with long-term or life limiting conditions.

Image used with permission, copyright Chris Barbalis.

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Wednesday March 7th, 2018 06:41

In the News March 2018 – The Age of Super Humans


Two thought-provoking articles from AAA’s Ian Spero (Dare to Care Different and Silver Economy Predicted to Generate 6.4 Trillion Euros & Employ 88m by 2025) highlighted some of the trends informing our ageing society through innovation and technology. If you want to see how the future of social care and the silver economy are taking shape, be sure to investigate.

Before you go, here are some of our favourite agile ageing stories from around the world. Once again, we turn to Japan – which still leads the way when it comes to innovation and ageing.

Land of the Rising Sun

Produced with funding from the Pulitzer Center, this article by Shiho Fukada reveals how Japan is employing cutting edge technology to improve quality of life for its rapidly ageing population.

Mr Fukada introduces us to innovators like Kenta Toshima, a therapist in Tokyo who has “spent most of his savings to travel the world, so that he can bring far-off lands back to his elderly patients”. Seeing the impact his VR films have on their desire to be more mobile is quite something.

We also learn about the growing use of robots in senior care facilities to encourage activity, connect residents and carers, and even improve mental wellbeing through companionship.

Although it doesn’t fill us with joy to see robots replacing people (carers are in short supply), and care facilities being the preferred means for living, it does offer hope that technology can bring people together, inspire action and even encourage some to complete physical therapy to get moving again.

It’s Good to Talk

Staying connected is more than being occupied, it can keep us alive. This essential piece of journalism from John Harris in the Guardian acts as a timely reminder to anyone who thinks it doesn’t apply to them.

According to Harris; “We seem to have a collective aversion to focusing on the realities of an ageing society. But there is an even bigger issue. Far too many of us refuse to consider the prospect of our own advancing years – or, worse still, give any attention to people already dealing with theirs”.

To address this, he argues, “we must change the way we view retirement as sudden and without ambition, and cease viewing home as somewhere to be alone, but instead a place to stay connected with others”.

The solution, he believes, could be the Scandinavian-style cohousing, seen in several projects already running in the UK such as Cannock Mill near Colchester. According to one resident: “A lot of illness in old age is related to social isolation. That won’t happen to us, because we’ll have a permanent community.”

Extra Time

For those uneasy at the thought of robot friends or community living, then what about continuing to work to stay healthy and connected?

This interesting article in Forbes’ Next Avenue looked at several studies about the health benefits of delaying retirement for as long as possible. Although the results were mixed, one found a significant increase in mortality in the US around age 62 (the age of retirement), while a landmark 2016 study revealed that healthy retirees aged 65 had a 11% lower mortality rate than those who retired earlier.

Dr Donald O Mack from Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Centre clarifies that “people who are still working aged after age 65 are generally in less physically demanding jobs”, but nevertheless, he continues “are healthier emotionally than their counterparts who retired”.

With a high level of education strongly related to longevity, then could later-life learning for a new more sedentary, yet stimulating role be a solution? Elder universities – yet another possible market to expand in the future then.

The Supers’ Secret

Returning to our theme of ‘superagers’, this piece also from the Guardian revealed how research around the brains of superagers showed more of a certain type of brain cell known as Von Economo neurons, than average elderly individuals.

Apparently; “These neurons are also found in a small group of higher mammals and are thought to increase communication. The team hopes that the findings might help scientists to unpick what causes Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and why some people might be resilient”.

Prof Emily Rogalski, from Northwestern University explains; “We are getting quite good at extending our lifespan but our health span isn’t keeping up and what the superagers have is more of a balance between those two, they are living long and living well”.

Challenging the Cult of Youth

We also discovered that it’s not just us who are ageing, but so too our social networks. This report revealed that as Facebook has aged (it’s just turned 14), so has it user base. This is of interest as Facebook’s business model is built around advertising, and with the products made for older people steadily increasing, then the elder social statesman may be around for much longer than some critics are suggesting.

Indeed, the cult of youth may be under threat. That’s one impression to take away from our final piece, this lovely article in the New York Times about a recent exhibition on the potential for ‘ageing pride to challenge the cult of youth’.

As the gallery itself says; “Anti-aging is heard more often in our society than the wisdom of age… Bowing to the cult of youth, images of age are often dictated by the cosmetics industry. Countering this are the many historical and contemporary works by artists pursuing a completely different idea of age.”

So let’s stick together, retire only when we’re ready and keep checking in on Japan to see what they do next. Until next, #BeAgile and be sure to follow Agile Ageing on twitter, and if you don’t already Creative Skills for Life too!

Image used with permission. Copyright Pat138241

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