Conferences on aging often focus on the downsides of getting old – illness, frailty and dependence.
But “The Many Faces of Aging” – a free June 3 conference sponsored by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Council on Aging and The Ivey adult day care center – hopes to put a “more positive spin on aging,” said Lynn Ivey, CEO and founder of The Ivey.
“It’s this whole idea of looking at aging differently...and how we can take advantage of the wisdom of people as they age,” Ivey said. “Just because they’re aging, they shouldn’t be put out to pasture.”
Three state and national aging experts have been invited to speak, to outline ways to develop attractive and practical living environments and opportunities for lifelong learning, volunteerism and community leadership for seniors.
During breakout sessions, those in attendance will be asked for their opinions, which Ivey said will be used to assess needs and help shape public policy for Mecklenburg County. Anyone is welcome to attend, but organizers have invited elected officials as well as businesses that serve aging and retiree populations.
Speakers will be Ron Manheimer, former director of the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement in Asheville; Sandra Timmerman, executive director of MetLife Mature Market Institute, and Mike Olender, associate state director for AARP in North Carolina.
Manheimer has lived for 21 years in Asheville, an example of a “retiree destination” that works to attract and keep seniors. “Without our retiree population here, Asheville would not survive,” he said. “Every organization has many gray-haired people.”
The program Manheimer used to lead – renamed the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville – is dedicated to promoting lifelong learning, leadership and community service. “Strangely enough for a town like Charlotte, there is no comparable program,” he said.
Also on the conference agenda will be a discussion of “livable environments” for seniors. That doesn’t mean just building seniors-only communities such as Sun City. It also means designing “functional communities” that allow older adults to “age in place.” People who want to remain in their own multigenerational neighborhoods may need single-story homes with doorways that accommodate wheelchairs and amenities such as sidewalks and public transportation.
“What’s good for older adults happens to be good for everybody,” Manheimer said. “We need to be looking at what works for all generations.
“We’re looking to create a vision of what an ideal community would look like that recognizes that there are many faces of aging.”
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