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Some issues are just too big for one organization, or even one nation, to address adequately. The aging of the world’s population is one of those issues.
I’m convinced that we won’t be able to overcome the challenges associated with global aging – or take full advantage of the opportunities – without help from many experts working in a variety of disciplines. That’s why a recent international conference, which I attended at the Rockefeller Foundation’s prestigious Bellagio Center in northern Italy, was so important.
About 25 economists, sociologists, physicians, city planners, aging and public health experts, engineers and transportation researchers came to Italy for the small meeting. These experts hailed from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, China, Thailand, Greece and Russia. Staff came from major international health organizations, including the World Health Organization and HelpAge International. Corporations like Pfizer and Bayer were also on hand.
During my conference presentation on global aging issues, I offered the “Housing Plus Services” model as a strategy for supporting the world’s aging population.
The LeadingAge Center for Applied Research has been studying this model for many years. We believe that affordable senior housing communities – both publicly subsidized and market rate – can serve as a valuable platform for the delivery of the long-term services and supports that older adults need to age in place.
The Housing Plus Services concept tied in beautifully with the conference’s focus on “livable communities.” We spent 4 days in intensive discussions about how a community’s infrastructure, economic and social features could be designed to help older people remain healthy, independent and engaged. We shared our knowledge and vision from our various professional and subject area perspectives. We also brainstormed about ways to encourage the developed and developing nations of the world to create livable communities that would embrace and support their rapidly aging populations.
I learned 3 important lessons during the meeting:
I came away from Bellagio with an expanded network of colleagues from a variety of countries. LeadingAge, the Center for Applied Research and the International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing will continue collaborating with these experts to move our work forward.
I also came home with a renewed appreciation for how livable communities could help providers of aging services better support the older adults who live within and outside their care settings. LeadingAge members will be hearing more from us about these communities and how we can work together to create and sustain them.