On October 25, 2019 The Age Friendly Foundation launched its inaugural Revolutionize 2019 Conference Event held at the Seaport Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts.
The event was co-sponsored by the Boston Chapter of Aging 2.0 and included over 300 attendees representing a diverse forum of business and industry stakeholders engaged in aging services. The Foundation was established in late 2018 as a vehicle to augment the continued growth of the Aging2.0 Boston Chapter’s programming together with related advocacy, education and events that champion healthy, active and productive aging for all ages.
Recently named the Silicon Valley of Aging by Inc. Magazine, Massachusetts provides an ideal backdrop to this international conference event promoting innovations in aging. As a center of pioneering research, education, healthcare, technologies and public policy, Boston is the perfect host to Revolutionizing the “Future of Aging”. Revolutionize 2019 represented a diverse assembly of “Best-in-Class” thought leaders coming together with integrative intentions.
When the “Revolutionize” theme for this Fall’s conference was seeded, we reflected on the humbling reality that early American colonists were relying upon hand-written letters or printed pamphlets that had to be carried by horseback or ship in order to share knowledge with cities and the rural lands where so many lived. The Committees of Correspondence that were ultimately formed and networked could arguably be credited for our ultimate success in organizing for Independence. Fast forward to today, where technology empowers us to connect instantly across the globe and it follows that we should be able to advance any common cause with ease IF we pursue it together. Successful outcomes naturally hinge on our ability and willingness to adopt shared language (or data) and ensure its “interoperability” for all stakeholders.
Simply stated, the common cause for this inaugural year of Revolutionize is to transform our views and practices surrounding so-called “aging services” in an even more inclusive and progressive fashion. The consumer profile underlying “senior living,” and or “age-tech” designations are profoundly changing – induced by unprecedented longevity and clearly emerging preferences for wellness, lifelong learning and active engagement that unifies rather than divides. Conveniently, this shift amplifies the needs and desires of all age groups and all 8,000 day life stages in our emergent Four Generation Society.
Key attributes of this new landscape will exhibit growing intergenerational presence, new technologies, progressive programming and escalating capital resources to support healthier, active and enriched lifestyles for everyone.
In his opening keynote, Dr. Alexandre Kalache set the stage for a new chapter in the Age Friendly Movement by amplifying the theme of growing inequality (economic, racial, gender, age-related) across both the United States and world stage at large. His remarks inspired us to acknowledge that we can likely accomplish even loftier goals if we focus on macro issues like social inclusion but approach them from a micro (local) perspective. This insight (arguably inspired by his formative role in the Age-Friendly Cities program) amplifies recognition that a bottom-up process is most effective when you are trying to turn the wheels of change.
The WHO Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities currently includes 1000 cities and communities in 41 countries, covering over 240 million people worldwide. On April 12, 2017, Governor Baker signed Executive Order 576 establishing the Governor’s Council to Address Aging in Massachusetts and the Commonwealth became the 2nd state in the nation to enroll in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. During his 2019 annual State of the City address Mayor Walsh announced the launch of the Age Strong Commission (previously known as the Commission on Affairs of the Elderly). More recently, he has launched the AgeStrong Public Awareness Campaign to further support awareness of inclusion and the fall conclusions of an ageist perspective:
While the general eight-domain framework (branded by AARP as Livability) dovetails with many other overlapping standards, it is the policy connection, action plans and subsequent traction in the City of Boston, State of Massachusetts and across the country and globe that makes this movement noteworthy and deserving of active acknowledgment, promotion and advancement.
DON’T TREAD ON ME
When Dr. Joseph Coughlin took to the stage to close the event, he challenged the audience to take up arms (metaphorically) at a deeper level. If we want to “revolutionize,” it follows that we ought to be truly revolutionary in our speech and in our thinking. He proffered further that specific words, like Age-friendly, Livable, Caregiver & Mobility ought to be abandoned as we charge ahead. While words do matter, we advocate that recognition should be given to those that have already taken root in our communities and represent progressive movements to be expanded upon. Age Friendly primary among them.
In reflecting further upon the attributes of a true “revolution,” Coughlin cited that signs and symbols are typically at the epicenter of all social movements. The best symbols are often simultaneously generic and descript in their messaging so that a majority can rally to its messaging in a more personalized way that still honors the collective intent. The revolutionary symbol of “Don’t Tread On Me” comes to mind where the pictorial snake mantra of “Join or Die” for the 13 colonies is juxtaposed with the more deeply rooted anthropomorphism of a Rattlesnake and its deadly bite when threatened. In a modern era where corporate or personal branding has taken precedence over the tribal markings, tartans or nation flags of old, what is the next banner we might wave intentionally as a collective humanity?
Revolutionize denotes initiatives to effect a radical change to existing conditions. The dramatic change landscape exhibited by aging services and all its influencers is replete with opportunities yet burdened by challenges. We can be the change agents analogous to our revolutionary forebearers – marshalling everyone together in a common cause – to deliver upon recognizing that aging is a national treasure rather than a burden to carry. Fueled by knowledge, experience and tools of advancing technologies, we can indeed foster the requisite collaboration for a forward march and be the catalysts for convergence to reimagine and redirect the future of aging – for all ages!