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Age Friendly University

Engaging Ageing 2018: New Frontiers of Ageing: Research, Policy and Practice, 13 and 14 March, 2018

We were delighted to host a very successful second international conference in March last. With a rapidly growing ageing population in a digital age, the aim of this conference was to forge new frontiers of ageing - news ways of working collaboratively to maximise opportunities to promote successful ageing research, policy and practice. The gathering of more than 130 academic researchers from across the globe with policy makers, older people’s organisations and older people resulted in exciting exchanges of ideas, research and practice outcomes to address the opportunities of our global ageing communities.

Growing older population

The conference opened with a thought provoking and wide ranging keynote address by Professor Alexandre Kalache, President of the Centre for Longevity – Brazil, and a former director of the World Health Organisation’s Global Ageing and Life Course Programme. Professor Kalache said that as people are living longer and fertility rates are dramatically reducing, the ageing population is increasing dramatically. He identified this as a Longevity Revolution, the number of people over 80 has increased from 40 million in 1950 to 210 million by 2050. This is not a faraway probability, it is upon us and it means planning now for the immediate future.

Achieving quality of life as we age

However everyone does not age in the same way. Professor Kalache highlighted the role of poverty and a range of inequalities in increased illness and premature ageing of many people across the globe. Policies to address poverty and inequalities are required to find better ways for most people to thrive into their eighties and nineties.

To age well, we need to optimise opportunities in four key areas: health; life-long learning, participation in society, and security, protection and peace of mind not to be abandoned later in life. These four pillars are necessary to promote quality of life as we age. To achieve an more age-friendly approach, we need to listen to the voices of people who are ageing and we need adequate and appropriate responses from those that make decisions in the public sector, business etc.

Old dogs can learn new tricks!

Speaking on the importance of life-long learning, Professor Kalache said that we need to combat clichés and stereotypes about our ability to learning new things as we age - ‘old dogs can learn new tricks’. Referring to an article in The Economist which concluded that working lives are so lengthy and fast changing, simply cramming more schooling at the start of life is not enough; individuals must be able to acquire new skills throughout their working lives. However he cautioned that many life-long learning programmes benefit high achievers and can exacerbate inequalities in society. Therefore we need to ensure that Life Long Learning means more opportunities to learn for the majority of people and so contribute to breaking the spiral of inequality. In summation, an educational revolution was required to meet the challenges of the longevity revolution.

Conference themes

The conference had four main themes and the other keynote speakers set the agenda on each of them. Dr. Áine Ní Léime, National University of Ireland Galway spoke about community engagement initiatives and partnerships; Professor Andre Sixsmith discussed research and innovation; Professor Allison Sekuler set out the latest trends in technology and health; Dr Ruth Finkelstein addressed the challenges and opportunities in work and enterprise. Professor Des O’Neill spoke of the supporting and nurturing creativity as we age. A range of speakers presented on different aspects of these themes over the two days. Presentations will be available on our website.

DCU’s Digi Photo Group

Sincere and grateful thanks for the wonderful Digital Photo Exhibition organized and curated by Leo George Devitt and his colleagues at the Digi Photo Group. Many of the photos were taken on field trips organized by Shay Scanlon, Nora Buggy and Leo over the last Semester. The exhibition was super and it was great to see the variety and diversity of the photos taken. Many thanks to all involved.