By Maja Gawronska, MA
How to build an age-friendly world? How to make communities and cities better for older adults? What are the best transportation, health care and senior-living models? How can we make it easy for older adults to stay connected to those around them and those they love? How to build a society that treats everyone with respect, regardless of age?
“Aging happens slowly, and it’s easy to postpone addressing these questions because it’s not a crisis of the moment,” said Dilip Jeste, MD, senior associate dean for Healthy Aging and Senior Care, distinguished professor of psychiatry and neurosciences, and director of the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging. “But one day we’ll look around and suddenly realize that almost everybody is old and we still don’t have answers to these questions. That’s why we have to start talking now.”
Dr. Jeste and colleagues are leading that conversation — and in the process are making UC San Diego a national, and perhaps international, hub for addressing the challenges and opportunities of an older America and world.
In December, the Center for Healthy Aging hosted its third think tank meeting. A high-caliber group of 25 physicians, researchers and planning experts gathered to develop national recommendations to improve health care, housing, technology and quality of life for the approximately 80 million Americans who are 55 years or older.
The UC San Diego Think Tank for Healthy Aging launched in November 2014. It was initially conceived as a two-year project, but its members have decided to continue its work indefinitely. During the first two years, the Center for Healthy Aging has invited renowned specialists from across the country to talk about aging and technology, housing, transportation, intergenerational living, medicine, and design.
The December meeting was devoted mainly to creating age-friendly communities and livable cities. Many cities and communities are already taking active steps toward becoming more age-friendly. Some are trying to join the WHO Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities. However, many barriers persist. Some of these are physical. For example, poorly designed buildings or lack of transportation may prevent older people accessing places they want to visit. But many barriers result simply from the way we think about aging and the way we view and treat older people.
Speakers representing a variety of cities and communities from the US and Europe shared their insights on practice and theory of building a more age-friendly world. Panelists included Chris Phillipson, PhD, professor of sociology at Manchester University; John Feather, PhD, executive director of Grantmakers in Aging; Hayley Gleason, MSW, an activist from Boston; Ranna Parekh, MD, director, Division of Diversity and Health Equity, American Psychiatric Association; and Saul Levin, MD, chief executive officer and medical director of the American Psychiatric Association Washington.
The meeting also featured two speakers from San Diego: Ellen Schmeding, MFT, director, San Diego County Aging and Independence Services, and Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, age-friendly initiative manager at the San Diego Foundation.
In addition, Laura Carstensen, PhD, director, Stanford Center on Longevity, Stanford University, discussed redesigning long life through technology; and William Vega, PhD, provost professor and executive director, Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging, University of Southern California, talked about health disparities in older population.
Think tank experts are working on a report on age-friendly communities with recommendations for policy makers.
UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging think tank members include the following:
Chair: Dilip V. Jeste, MD
• Associate Dean for Healthy Aging and Senior Care, UC San Diego
• Estelle and Edgar Levi Chair in Aging
• Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences
• Director, Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging
Co-Chair: Dan G. Blazer II, MD, MPH, PhD
• J.P. Gibbons Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University
Kathleen C. Buckwalter, PhD, RN, FAAN
• Codirector, National Health Law and Policy Resource Center College of Law
• Professor of Research and Distinguished Nurse Scientist in Aging, Donald W. Reynolds Center of Geriatric
Nursing Excellence, College of Nursing, University of Oklahoma Health Science Center
Laura Carstensen, PhD
• Fairleigh S. Dickinson Jr. Professor in Public Policy, Stanford University
• Professor of Psychology
• Director, Stanford Center on Longevity
Keri-Leigh Cassidy, MD, FRCPC
• Associate Professor, Dalhousie University
• Clinical Academic Director, Geriatric Psychiatry Program, Halifax, Nova Scotia
John Feather, PhD
• Chief Executive Officer, Grantmakers in Aging
Len Fishman, JD
• Director of the Gerontology Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston’s John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies
Gary L. Gottlieb, MD, MBA
• President and Chief Executive Officer, Partners HealthCare System, Inc.
Lisa P. Gwyther, MSW, LCSW
• Director, Family Support Program, Duke University Medical Center
• Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Christopher A. Langston, PhD
• Program Director, The John A. Hartford Foundation
Kiang J. Liu, PhD
• Professor in Preventive Medicine-Epidemiology and Medicine-General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Ramesh Rao, PhD
• Director, UC San Diego Division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2)
• Professor, Jacobs School of Engineering
• Qualcomm Endowed Chair in Telecommunications and Information Technology
Sandra Rosenbloom, PhD
• Professor of Planning, University of Texas
• Director of the Innovation in Infrastructure program at the Urban Institute
Judith A. Salerno, MD, MS
• President and Chief Executive Officer, Susan G. Komen
William Vega, PhD
• Provost Professor and Executive Director, Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging, University of Southern California