I’ve been to many regional and national conferences in my three-plus decades working in the field of aging, but never one that was exclusively funder|foundation attended and focused. The recent Grantmakers in Aging Conference in Portland, Oregon, gave me both new experiences and insights. The conference theme, coupled with a picture of Mt. Hood, was called “Climbing Higher: Working Together to Reach New Heights in Aging Philanthropy.” My role as a lead consultant for Age-Friendly Sarasota, an initiative supported by The Patterson Foundation, provided me with this unique opportunity. Some key program highlights from this connecting, learning and sharing experience follow:
The Reframing of Aging is a multi-year initiative funded in partnership with major foundations. There have been longstanding concerns that media representations of aging are skewed and inaccurate. This effort includes mapping the gaps between expert and public understanding of aging in America. The goal is to develop strategies that respond to the overall aging trend in our county and productively leverage the contributions of older adults, while also helping to meet their needs. Reframing Aging is still in the early stages of what plans to be a comprehensive long-term commitment to address this challenge.
Aging Mastery Program (AMP) was developed by the National Council on Aging. AMP is a comprehensive 10-session program that helps participating individuals make meaningful choices and better navigate their rest-of-life journey. The Patterson Foundation, an early AMP supporter that has seeded successful local efforts, convened a dinner meeting of national funders and potential funders of the program. Debra Jacobs, The Patterson Foundation’s President and CEO, hosted and facilitated thoughtful discussions that highlighted the value, sustainability, and expansion of the Aging Mastery Program.
Creating and Sustaining Age-Friendly Communities at the Local Level was a both a session and a roundtable discussion with special attention to the work of Age-Friendly Sarasota. Self-selected funders gathered to assess and discuss how best to respond to this growing global effort under the umbrellas of the World Health Organization and AARP. Some are already partnering in such efforts while others considered future support. I was fortunate to personally share The Patterson Foundation model and plant seeds for the future.
There are clear and compelling commonalities within the topics of Age-Friendly Communities, the Aging Mastery Program, and Reframing Aging. While our world is still in the early stages of a historic Longevity Revolution, such efforts at global, national, community and individual levels will greatly benefit from being interconnected. Many of us will face four or more decades of being an older adult (60+). As individuals and as communities, we need to understand the importance of co-creating Age-Friendly communities together and becoming the architects of our future.
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