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Sloan Center News

Visions for a New Future of Aging

provocative meeting redefines assumptions and expectations

11 November 2009 - The world of work has yet to fully embrace new assumptions and expectations about aging.  Neither have social policies and laws caught up to the changing context of aging.  And while academic researchers have been trying to re-brand the image of aging with such concepts as “successful aging,” and “productive aging,” these too have been met with skepticism.

On 30 October 2009 a panel of 25 experts representing employers, policy analysts/advocates, and academic researchers, gathered at Boston College to make recommendations for social and structural changes needed that will facilitate expanded options for a satisfying and meaningful later life.  The group—which included representatives from AARP, the Senate Committee on Aging, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and Atlantic Philanthropies, and included researchers such as Nancy Morrow-Howell, author of Productive Aging: Concepts and Challenges—also discussed new directions for research to inform culturally specific perceptions of and relationships around the process of aging.

"These topics are of particular interest to those who are fast moving toward that point of wrapping up very rewarding careers and moving on to ‘encore’ careers," comments Jacquelyn James, co-director of research at the center and meeting coordinator.  "But they are equally relevant to employers and policy makers—unless we change institutional thinking about work for older workers, not much is going to shift.”

Initial discussions during the day-long meeting centered around old ways of thinking that need to be changed in the business, policy and scholarly spheres, tensions between these old ways of thinking and new realities and how to resolve the discrepancies, and barriers to making the transition from old ways to new ways.  At the end of the day several broad themes were collectively generated by the group:

  • the importance of flexible work options for workers of all ages;
  • recognition that the status of the older adult population is not just about their well-being, but the well-being of all ages; and
  • the unending search for strategies to overcoming resistance to change.

The center aims to publish an Issue Brief as well as a Call to Action Report based on the proceedings in January of 2010.

The meeting—Engaged as We Age: Meeting the Compelling Challenges and Opportunities of Aging Well in America—was planned and carried out by James, and Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, director of the center.  It was sponsored by the Graduate School of Social Work, the University Institute on Aging, and the Institute for Intercultural Studies in New York.  The meeting was phase I of a larger initiative at the center, Engaged as We Age, and was the inaugural event for the Institute on Aging.

More on the Engaged as We Age Project »