“Finally, finally countries are waking up to the growing number of older adults in our populations.” IFA plenary speaker Hazel McCallion, age 97, Revera Chief Elder Officer and former mayor of Canada’s 5th largest city for 35 years.

This month’s column is a joint venture between Network lead Betsy Werley and Senior Fellow volunteer, Julia Randell Khan, sharing insights from the 14th International Federation on Ageing conference in Toronto. After retiring from law practice in London, Julia attended the Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute and she’s expanding her connections as a Stanford Longevity Center Fellow. She has been an invaluable supporter for our global encore efforts.

Betsy observes: The conference offered a mind-expanding opportunity to meet leaders in aging from around the world and learn about innovations outside Encore.org’s focus: health care, brain health, age-friendly communities, lifelong learning and indigenous peoples in Canada and New Zealand. Speakers from the United Nations, World Health Organization and International Longevity Centers highlighted global demographic forces and related policy issues; we shared on-the-ground programs that illustrate the potential for countries to tap the experience of older adults.

Through our participation, many attendees learned about Encore.org and encore programs across the world. We were delighted to connect with true believers who said “Marc Freedman changed my life.” Best of all, we strengthened connections among Encore friends attending the conference from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea, the US and UK.

Julia comments: Passion, talent and dedication is what I took away from my first IFA meeting experience. The determination of so many people around the world to make a difference to people’s lives as they age.  Special people like 97 year old Hazel McCallion, health company Revera’s Chief Elder Officer, who spoke about living a life of purpose and Bev Foster who played the piano at the lunch breaks to raise awareness of the role of music in care-giving. The drive to tackle ageism and inequality through collaboration at societal, national and global level was a constant and welcome theme. And, of course, the recognition of older people being the only natural resource that will keep growing in the 21st century – the encore movement being at the heart of how we tap this talent.

IFA and conference background

The International Federation on Ageing is a non-governmental organization with members including government, non-governmental organizations, academics, industry, and individuals in 70 countries. It is a global point of connection for experts working to influence age-related policy, with consultative status at the United Nations and formal relationships with the World Health Organization.

The 2018 conference included 1300 people from 77 countries, with a theme “Towards a Decade of Health Aging” and four tracks: Toward Healthy Aging, Combating Ageism, Addressing Inequality and Age-Friendly Communities.

Network presentations

“Longevity Dividend” presenters (l to r) Carrie Deacon (Nesta, UK), Karin Haist (Koerber Foundation, Germany), Seon Ju Koh (Seoul 50Plus), Betsy Werley (Encore.org)

We showcased encore efforts in a program titled Capturing the Longevity Dividend in an Aging World – Perspectives from Four Countries, including moderator Karin Haist of Germany’s Körber Foundation, Seon Ju Koh, Central Campus Executive Director of South Korea’s Seoul 50Plus Foundation, Social Action Innovation Head Carrie Deacon of UK-based Nesta and Encore.org.

Presenters compared experiences of government funding (Seoul 50Plus and the UK), operating 21st century facilities that support community, learning and social action (Seoul 50Plus and Körber), prizes that foster culture change and innovation (Nesta, Encore.org, Korber Foundation) and culture change.

Download our presentation including comparative statistics on lifespans, % of older adults, employment and volunteering here.

Friends of Encore.org and Network members led other well-received programs:

  • Creating an Age-Friendly Digital Environment for Global Support of Healthy AgingMoira Allan & Jan Hively Pass It On Network, Kathi Bailey, Director of Senior Services, Yarmouth MA, Kari Henley & Judy Rough, Age Without Borders
  • Encore entrepreneurship – Geoff Pearman led multiple sessions (Partners in Change, Australia and New Zealand)
  • Improving Wellbeing through Access to Health and Social Servicesmoderated by Dr. Peter Whitehouse (Intergenerational School, Cleveland)
  • Innovations in CaregivingKari Henley, Judy Rough, Sandra Timmermann (IFA United Nations team, ASA Corps of Accomplished Professionals)
  • The Retirement Reset – A global reframing of aging with Helen Dennis (Renewment, ASA Corps of Accomplished Professionals), Jan Hively and Sandra Timmerman
  • Strengthening Partnerships to Build Age-Friendly CommunitiesMargie van Zyl (Take the Lead, Cape Town South Africa)

Highlights from conference sessions

  • Age Friendly Cities – this World Health Organization initiative is now 10 years old. 200 million people around the world now live in more than 700 communities committed to better aging. Dr. John Beard, Director, WHO Department of Aging and Life Course, celebrated progress and said it’s time for greater investment and political commitment to age-friendly environments.
  • Ageism is a barrier to many components of healthy aging: employment, health services, age-friendly environments, human rights. Alana Officer, Senior Health Advisor, Aging and Life Course at the WHO, led a masterclass on ageism, highlighting Network member Ashton Applewhite’s powerful work.
  • Brain health – Two areas of significant research focus hold promise: “cognitive reserve”, the mind’s resistance to brain damage and “brain plasticity”, the brain’s ability to adapt when it learns or experiences something new. Presenters celebrated the lower incidence of dementia in succeeding generations (i.e. today’s 80 years olds are less likely to experience dementia than 80 year olds in the 1990s). They also noted that dementia continues to be a must-solve challenge given increasing numbers of older adults and no new Alzheimer’s drugs in the pipeline.
  • Many presenters shared collaborative community solutions engaging government, NGOs and individuals. Nesta Social Action Innovation lead Carrie Deacon discussed its collaborative approach: to mobilize people 50+ alongside public services, promoting better health among older adults and expanding the reach of those services.
  • Inequality – older adults in many developing countries face ageism, mobility challenges, health issues and social isolation, often without any government support. Dr Alexandre Kalache, International Longevity Centre co-president, called for a global collaboration among governments and global organizations to ensure that older adults’ rights are protected and innovations are available in all countries. (Inequality is also an issue in the US and developed countries.)
  • Lifelong learning helps older adults remain engaged, and for many is a fulfilling later life pursuit. The Age Friendly University Global Network is led by Christine O’Kelly, who also leads Dublin City University’s Age Friendly program. Another program featured several Ontario-based programs launched by older adults to build a community of lifelong learners. Founding members in their 90s continue to attend; several are so popular that they can’t add new members because of space limitations.

Encore.org’s global effort – Our participation in the IFA conference supported Encore’s global strategy: to expand the encore movement in collaboration with organizations and individuals around the world who view longer lives as an opportunity for our countries.

To further that strategy:

  • We share Encore.org’s messages, writing, research and programs
  • We share news of other successful programs to raise their visibility and foster learning
  • We connect leaders to strengthen the global network

We’re excited about the progress of our global work, with Network members in 11 countries and many productive exchanges among  members in the US and other countries. In September we’ll showcase global member organizations’ work with a new global page on the Encore Network website. 

Read the conference agenda and presenter information here.

Contact Betsy Werley here and Julia Randell-Khan here.

Published: August 23, 2018