AARP sponsored on Wednesday 7 October - Thursday 8 October a conference aimed at rethinking current systems and structures around aging and health considering what we have learned with COVID-19. Panel speakers such as General Colin L Powell, Jo Ann Jenkins, and Earvin “Magic” Johnson brought unique insights around innovation to reimagine a future that ensures people have the support they need at every stage of their lives.
Reimaging Aging Needs To Take Into Account Social Structures
It is impossible to image aging and take it out of context thus it is important to consider that while we all do age, our experiences with it vary based on community, wealth, health, and the support structures around us. In order to focus on aging, we need to look at the following community issues that are being ignored.
- Multigenerational issues play a key role in aging. Does your community have support or is it dependent on the family? Do members have the luxury to rest as they age or are they caring for grandchildren?
- Community-based organizations are essential. Over 12 million people struggling to put food on the table in the US alone.
- Home care is required for many people as they age but the financial burden can be heavy.
- Racial and ethnic have a disproportionate impact on the resources available. Often with limited resources for communities of color that need it most.
- The social security system has a structural problem. Those will less financial means often age quicker and require support sooner, however, the structure doesn’t take this into account. Manual labor jobs and other low-income jobs or stress around financial well-being can age people much faster than 65 and this disproportionately affects minority communities.
These issues may seem overwhelming but they don’t have to be. The conference brought together great minds focused on improving these societal issues to ensure healthy aging.
- Build an institution that can look at data and science and prevent such issues from happening in the future.
- Companies can share data around aging, wealth, and health so that societies can help to create communities that effectively meet the needs of all participants.
- We need to work together on a global scale so that when the next disease happens we will be prepared, and it won’t disproportionately affect an area of the population such as the elderly people who did not have access to resources and vulnerable populations who are underpaid and overworked during this time.
- Need to address the inequity in the US and around the world to create a better society for all members.
Reimagining a future that is ready to serve the needs of everyone is a lofty goal, but one that can be accomplished. We will work together to do this. GetSetUp is doing its part by offering virtual classes and social hours tailored to older adults. These sessions help learners to learn new skills, feel empowered, and share in a social ambiance with their peers from their living room. This allows accessibility for those with mobility issues and those with health risks considering the pandemic. However, we know that not all older adults have access to the internet or devices, so we are discussing options with other aging leaders on how we can make sure that connectivity becomes a resource that older adults have access to!
Creating equity is important to make sure that everyone has access to basic tools and needs to stay healthy and happy as they age.