In early March, 2010, a friend of mine, Katherine C. Pearson, sent me an email message from Belfast, Northern Ireland, where she conducts her sabbatical from her position as a Professor of Law at Penn State - Dickinson School of Law, in Carlisle, PA.
In the fall of 2009, Professor Pearson was the Petersen Visiting Scholar in Gerontology and Family Studies at Oregon State University.After relaying kind personal thoughts, she made an offer that only now -- belatedly, but gratefully -- I accept:
During the spring of 2010, she will be a scholar in residence at Queen's University Belfast, in Northern Ireland on a Fulbright grant, conducting interdisciplinary research on policies related to protection and care for older adults, with an international perspective. * * *
In case you might want a "different" sort of aging article for your blog, I'm attaching something I put together on the train while coming home for an interesting conference in Dublin.I note the purpose of that Irish partnership, which promotes its work under the banner "Older, Louder, Stronger":
But regardless of the attachment, I hope this email finds you -- and finds you well. I'm sending good wishes and a pot of Irish luck your way!
Changing Ageing Partnership (Cap) funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies seeks to develop a robust evidence base to inform policy development with respect to older people. Research is being developed across a range of areas including: law; economics; politics; sociology; environmental planning, consequently a diverse range of methods will be used. * * *By her participation, she is gathering ideas from the Continent and considering how we, under our American systems, might better address the concerns raised by our aging population. We will need such ideas to address our growing senior needs creatively!
The Business of Aging – or Ageing – in Ireland
Copyright © by Katherine C. Pearson
[Links added by NEH]
I have long been involved with legal professionals engaged in the business of aging, while also watching students begin their careers in Penn State Law’s Elder Law and Consumer Protection Clinic. With that background, I decided to attend a conference on “The Business of Ageing” in Dublin, Ireland on March 3, 2010. (“Aging” in the U.S. is spelled with an “e” in Ireland and the U.K.)
The conference was sponsored in major part by technology powerhouse Intel, which has a center of health product research in Ireland. My spring sabbatical residence is in Northern Ireland, where I am working at Queen’s University Belfast’s Changing Ageing Partnership, and that made it easy to take advantage of this opportunity.
The motto of the conference was “Turning Silver into Gold” and frankly that phrase gave me a few worries. Students in Penn State’s Elder Law and Consumer Protection Clinic have had a few too many opportunities to see the consequences of home repair “experts,” home lenders, hearing aid companies and insurance companies that tried to tap into the presumed riches held by older persons. Fortunately, I encountered no one trying to market financial products such as deferred pay-off annuities or reverse mortgages that have often have high commissions or hidden transaction costs.
Over 300 people attended. It was standing room only for speakers ranging from the political leader of Ireland, Taoiseach Brian Cowen, to a Harvard professor giving the latest economic and demographical profile for Europe and Ireland.
Unlike the U.S. and U.K., Ireland is still a few years away from hitting the inverted population pyramid created when older persons substantially outnumber younger workers. The extra time is the result of a longer period of high birth rates among its younger families. [See: Irish Times article, State pension age to be set at 68 by 2028 in radical overhaul of qualification structure (03/04/10).]
However, despite the grace period, the economic downturn of the last several years has hit Ireland hard. Even as Ireland’s governing head was trying to put a good face on opportunities for innovation in Ireland, the government was also announcing the need to increase the pensionable retirement age and predicting that future workers would be expected to pay a significant portion of earnings into Ireland’s pension system.
The energy in the room was substantial. I spoke to a young woman working on a PhD that capitalizes on a recent project at Intel where she matched older adults with college age students to provide one-on-one computer training. This project virtually eliminated the drop out-rate from previous efforts to bring older adults fully into the computer age. I met seasoned business people in health and technology fields who were looking to adapt U.S. models for home health and monitoring systems for the population of Ireland.
Speakers included advertising executives and the head of a venture capital company. A few speakers seemed to struggle with political correctness in the language of aging, and some admitted this was the first time they had consciously considered how to market to older adults.
Occasionally I had a renewed shiver of fear, as when one speaker compared marketing for older adults to Robin Hood’s reason for targeting the rich for his thievery, wholly ignoring the fact that at least the fictional Robin Hood was giving the money to the poor rather than lining his own pockets.
Far more impressive was the speaker from B & Q, a home and garden product retailer that has made a conscious effort in Ireland to recruit older employees. B & Q provides the same training and promotion opportunities for all employees, and its older worker profile has helped to ensure a reliable workforce.
Who was missing from the conference – at least as far as I could tell?
I did not encounter any attorneys. Although one accountant assured me, with a smile, that was a good thing.