In 2009, a small group of research faculty—each dedicated to gerontology from the University of Washington’s Schools of Nursing, Pharmacy and Social Work—came together as a “think tank” to explore trends in aging. To this group the evidence was clear: We are living longer.
The rapidly growing older population presented an imperative and an opportunity “to provide leadership to create an elder-friendly future for the citizens of Washington State, congruent with the goals of the Washington State Plan on Aging and Community Services.” Much of what is reflected in the state plan is found locally in the Area Plan for Seattle-King County. These plans are road maps to guide us in meeting the opportunities and challenges presented by the “age wave.”
Back to the think tank: The mission and vision of this interdisciplinary collaborative was captured in a thoughtful 50-page report that proposed conferences to “serve diverse audiences interested in visioning the future together.”
The first such conference, held in 2012, was a small half-day gathering. It has grown into the two-day Elder Friendly Futures Conference, attracting hundreds of healthcare practitioners, community professionals, researchers, faculty, students and others who have an interest in contributing to an age-friendly present and future. Just as the state and Seattle-King County plans encourage partnership, education, and community engagement, so does the Elder Friendly Futures Conference.
This year’s conference—the fifth annual—will be held Thursday and Friday, September 15–16, at the Lynnwood Convention Center. Two full days of robust workshops and educational sessions will feature topics under one of five themes:
- Shaping the science of health and wellness
- Visioning connections within age-friendly communities
- Addressing what it means to be older and underserved
- The multiple dimensions of cognitive and mental health
- Elder justice and security
Plenary keynotes—each speaker a pioneer and expert in their respective fields—will anchor each day:
- Karen Fredriksen-Goldsen—health, caregiving and aging in marginalized communities
- Fernando Torres-Gil—diversity, generations and presidential campaign that will shape our future
- Ashton Applewhite—how ageism makes aging in America so much harder than it has to be (see the review of her book, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, in this issue)
The conference also includes abundant opportunities for discussion, community-building, leadership and advocacy through engaging exhibits, research poster presentations, roundtable discussions, the always-popular short films and discussion, and new this year, a bookstore.
While the conference is provided by the UW School of Nursing de Tornyay Center for Healthy Aging and the UW School of Social Work, in partnership with the UW School of Pharmacy, UW Division of Gerontology, and Geriatric Medicine Northwest Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Center, there is a dedicated and active community-based planning committee behind the scenes. In addition to UW research educators, the committee includes representatives from nonprofits serving older adults and those that work directly with older adults, family caregivers, care management, home care, healthcare and government. This collective makes sure that the breakout sessions and panel discussions bring relevant, practical information and discoveries to conference attendees.
Looking back on those early think tank days, conference chair Dr. Barb Cochrane and co-founder Dr. Nancy Hooyman both marvel at how Elder Friendly Futures has “far exceeded our hopes for community engagement, knowledge dissemination, and new collaborations and insights.”
All advocates for elder-friendly communities are encouraged to participate in this year’s conference. The more attendees, the more reflective this conference will be of the Multiple Voices Shaping Our Communities.
Visit elderfriendlyfutures.org to:
- Register to attend: Early-bird registration ends August 31. Student and reduced fee registrations are available.
- Become a sponsor: Sponsor benefits include one or more conference registrations and exhibit space.
Contributor Keri Pollock directs marketing and communications for Aging Wisdom, an Aging Life Care™ practice (geriatric care management) serving King, south Snohomish and Whatcom Counties, and is co-chair of the Elder Friendly Futures Conference.
Contributor Karen Winston is a planner with Aging and Disability Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County and a member of the planning committee for the Elder Friendly Futures Conference.