Highlights from this week’s conversation include:
Abundant Aging is a podcast series presented by United Church Homes. These shows offer ideas, information, and inspiration on how to improve our lives as we grow older. To learn more and to subscribe to the show, visit abundantagingpodcast.com.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 00:07
Hello, and welcome to The Art of aging podcast, this series from United Church homes. On this show, we look at what it means to age in America and in other places around the world, which is really important for this particular episode. And we do so by taking a look at positive and empowering conversations that challenge, encourage and inspire all to age with abundance. Today, it is my pleasure and privilege to be talking with Emma Twyning from the Centre for Better Ageing about her work, and the work of the center in the UK to promote age positive programming and address outdated Aegis fuses. And we are just so excited to have you here. Hello, Emma.
Emma Twyning 00:48
Hi. Hi, thank you very much for having me. It’s a real privilege.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 00:52
Yeah. And but before we get into it, I’d love for you to share some background about the Center for Aging better and your role with its
Emma Twyning 01:01
Yes, certainly. So as a member training, I’m the Director of Communications and policy at the Center for Aging better. We believe that everyone has the right to have a good later life, that we think that the whole of society benefits when people are able to age well. And we are concerned currently that society, we’re not doing enough to support people. And that leads to many people, you know, struggling in older age. So we are really focused on making aging better, particularly for those people. And we work on three key areas, we kind of zoom in on three areas. So the first one is work, and employment. So making sure that as we get older, we have equitable access to work. That includes things like looking at ageism in recruitment, workplace cultures, includes the cute things like flexible working, and we’ve just launched this a trend, the employer pledge, which is a pledge that employers can take to show that they value and recognize the importance of older workers and wants to take steps to support them. And on the other side, it’s also helping people who have fallen out of work. So as people get older, we know if they fall out of work, they’re much less likely to be able to get back in. So we do a lot of work to support people to get back into work. And we try to influence policy around that. So we’re trying to get national and local government, but more supportive of those individuals. Another key focus for us is homes. And in this country, our homes are generally quite poor quality. And overall, they’re not terribly accessible. So as people get older, and their needs change, you know, they don’t necessarily have houses, they’re safe, warm, and enable them to live independently, they can actually live in quite dangerous homes as a result. And we know that people who are most at risk are people who’ve got ill health, you know, people on low incomes, people who aren’t in a position to change that. So we do a lot to try and improve the housing stock, and support homeowners to improve their homes, but also trying to make new homes accessible to getting new homes built to much better, more accessible standards. And then the third area is in many ways closest to my heart because I lead it, and that’s around challenging ageism and trying to build an Atrani movement. So we know that in this country, and indeed, across the world, the societal narrative around aging is generally very negative. And we want to try and change that. So we’ll be launching a big, public facing campaign in October. And we are going to be launching that as part of a wider Age Friendly movement where we’re trying to get people to think, feel and act differently about aging, and give people the kind of tools and inspirations to do things differently in their communities, in their workplaces, in their sectors, and generally try and make society more Age Friendly.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 03:48
Absolutely. Thank you. So where did this machine come from for the center? I mean, was the center established specifically for these three initiatives? Or has this evolved from a longer conversation?
Emma Twyning 04:01
Yeah, much longer. Sort of a few years of work, really building up the evidence base around, you know, what are the things that help people to age well, and there are many things we could be doing. There are also lots of brilliant organizations out there doing other things. So we really tried to look at where we could make a difference and where we had a bit of a USP and particularly on something like ageism, you know, we did lots of work, looking at where ages and comes from how society talks about older people, you know, what drives these views? What perpetuates these kind of ageist stereotypes and this internalized ageism that we all have, and we really thought you know, with that we can make a difference because we feel that if we can unlock that we can really that will help us to make some of those wider changes that I just talked about. It feels like that’s a really fundamental barrier.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 04:49
Yeah, I get your emails on a regular basis. I just got one earlier and I know it says Emma from the Center for better aging and I know you weren’t sending that out personally but I do feel this connection to your work. And I know that here in the US, we also are doing a lot of work in this area. And a lot of it is based on the research done by the reframe Institute. And from what I can tell from reading things from your center, and here in the US, there are some pretty similar commonalities between the public views of aging and the sources of ageism. Do you? Do you see that as well between our two cultures?
Emma Twyning 05:30
Absolutely. And all around the world. And I should say, you know, we’ve learned so much from looking at what other people are doing in different places, including internationally. I’m a big fan of, you’ve got some brilliant campaigners around ageism and ageist attitudes in the US, many of whom we’re in touch with, and I personally, really love and learn from, but I think you’re right, fundamentally, these are all the same core challenges. And the fact that we can learn from what each other is, what each other is doing, is a huge asset. You know, the kind of similarities in the way that we all think about aging, and the way that kind of manifests in the way we talk about aging, you know, are really clear to see. And I think, often people tell me, there’s a sort of cultural difference in the way that we think about aging. And that might be true, but I feel like, you know, in modern society, when we think how the media portrays aging, or this terrible under-representation, we have, so when we see a aging and older age groups in society, which, you know, is less frequent than other age groups, they’re often based on these really kind of outdated, often offensive stereotypes that really is such a mismatch, to the way people actually feel as they get older. And I think that’s a commonality it seems that across many countries and societies,
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 06:53
yeah. Where did your passion come from? Because it’s obvious that you are personally passionate, and passion, by the way, this topic?
Emma Twyning 07:01
Yeah, I’m so passionate about it. I mean, I think anyone who is socially conscious and wants to make the world a better place, this should be something that people care about. Because it literally affects everyone. And I think, you know, the people that it most impacts are the people who don’t have the means or the status to kind of navigate around it. And I guess, the other reason that I’m really passionate about it is, you know, as a woman getting older, we have particular expectations, I think from society about how we should age, about how we should look about what our value is. And I feel quite resentful of that being perfectly honest. And I hate to see the impact that has across people I know, women I know, I hate to see the impact of that, you know, with even really young women now making changes to the way they look. Because they feel oppression, like they feel that they can’t just, you know, live and exist and get older, with confidence. And, you know, I’ve got two beautiful young nieces, and I would just really love to think that the world might feel differently to them as they get older.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 08:15
Yeah, absolutely. There’s another new podcast out this year, called Women wiser than me and the actress. Julia Louis Dreyfus is hosting that. And she did her initial podcast with Jane Fonda. And it was really interesting. In the midst of that conversation, Jane admitted that, yes, she has had plastic surgery on her face. And now at the age of 80, I forget exactly what it is. But that is the one thing she regrets. She really regrets that she could succumb to those expectations in her field as an actress, but also personally. Yeah, yeah.
Emma Twyning 08:59
I should say like, I don’t you know, I don’t I’m not one of these. I wouldn’t judge. I don’t want to lay judgment on people for doing anything that they feel they need to. I just wish they didn’t feel the pressure. I wish we didn’t feel the pressure. Yeah,
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 09:12
absolutely. Well, and all of this is related to images and public images, and what are the expectations and as you said, this is particularly difficult for women, and one of the ways that I first got to know about the Center for better aging was through your image library. I mean, nobody else was providing access to a library of each positive picture. How did that initiative start? And how was it that you were able to convince people that yeah, we’re going to offer these to the world to be able to use?
Emma Twyning 09:50
Yeah, it’s a brilliant project. And I you know, say that shamelessly, because, you know, I really feel it makes such a difference of all the things things that we’ve done as an organization, it is one of the most sort of tangible ways and in many ways that one of the most straightforward ways that we’re able to try and make a change. And it started really small. To be honest, it started in response to a movement. I think it’s just a UK movement, but on Twitter, which is called No More, Riki hands, hashtag. I mean, maybe it’s larger than that. But you know, it’s really people getting really upset that every single article in the media about aging, old people, social care, whatever it was, there was a picture of two hands clasped, wrinkly hands disembodied, and it’s just, you know, so dehumanizing and lazy. And there were no other, as I said before, the representation of older age groups in terms of inch imagery is really poor. And we obviously, were taking photos for our own work that tried to sort of get around that and to challenge that and to challenge some of these horrible stereotypes that we do see, when we do see imagery. And we thought, actually, you know, what, if we just what if we make these available, so other people can use them, too. And it really grew from there. And I think one of the successes of the project is that we use real people in real settings, we’re starting to dabble a little bit, actually, with more professional settings. But it’s the real people, obviously, you know, not models. But you know, I think they’re authentic. And this is the thing that we really all need to show much more. It’s like the diversity of aging. It’s not showing a really glamorous form of aging, it’s not showing, you know, a successful idealized version of aging, it’s about showing the huge range of people, circumstances, interests, lifestyles, that exist as people get older, and people you know, that doesn’t change, if anything, older age groups are getting more diverse, in all ways possible. So yeah, the image really was a chance to try and reflect that to the world. And, yeah, we’ve had a huge response to it.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 12:02
Well, I can tell you, I’m a personal user, and speak often. And the images from your library are the images that are most consistent throughout my presentations. And I believe that authenticity is important. And I so appreciate the diversity of the older adults, that you are highlighted in the collection from LGBT Q folks to you know, various skin tones to clothes that represent different ethnicity, or cultural backgrounds. So just thank you. And I spread the word as well about that resource. Thank you. Thank you. So one of the more remarkable things about the center is your ability to build coalition and action behind your ideas and research. So it’s not just saying in discovering something, you are actually doing things you were making a difference. What are your best tips with our audience about how to build a coalition, particularly around issues that are not popular? And people don’t particularly understand ageism? Oh, it’s
Emma Twyning 13:14
a great question. And I think, you know, I’d like to start by saying, I think coalition building can be really hard, it can be really hard work. It’s, you’re often playing the long game, you know, with coalition building, I think our approach is, you know, solid evidence is so important. So a shared understanding of the problem that everybody kind of respects, and understands, and people might be coming at things from slightly different angles. But it’s really important to get the consensus about what the core challenge is, and what is the outcome that you want to see and get everyone on that page. I think it’s really important to and how you involve people so you know, who you pick to be part of coalition’s or key attract to be part of coalition’s in a tailoring, you’re asked to be, you know, in their interests, thinking about their needs, thinking about what barriers they might have to getting involved in your work, and how you can support them. Trust patients are really important, a coalition can be a lot about compromise, it is important to really think about issues from different people’s points of view. And to be flexible, I think, often, and I think great things come is also the thing that’s really important. So you need a plan. You need strong direction, you need to all know your roles. You need to know people need to know what’s expected of them, and how you’re going to interact and work together, you know, who’s driving it, who’s who and how do people support it? And sometimes there’s a need to fully agree that depending on what the coalition looks like, and then I think the other thing is just you know, when you start to get success when you start to make progress, it’s like celebrating that making sure people are updating them that, you know, successes really galvanizing. And especially those organizations that are giving up time and resources and energy to be part of something, showing them that it’s making a difference. You know, it’s hugely motivating.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 15:14
Yeah. So you know, and part of the challenge can be even How do you know, when you’re seeing his success to be able to celebrate? Because sometimes, it’s small steps along the way, is it as well as the big one? So, you know, you talked about the image libraries being, you know, a success. I’m really curious about the employer pledge. And I forget, is that just getting launched? Or are folks signing up at this point,
Emma Twyning 15:46
yet? So it’s fairly recently launched, we launched at the end of last year, we’ve got I think, around 140, employers signed up already. And, you know, some really big name organizations and government departments over here, as well, as you know, smaller and medium sized organizations, charities, public sector, private sector, a really lovely range, actually. And that, you know, in some ways, I think has, you know, been fairly easy, because I think this sort of proposition is really compelling. You know, what we’re asking employers to do is to think about the fact that their workforces are getting older. And, you know, what do they need to do to respond to that? What do they need to do to put, you know, different policies or practices in place? How do they make workplaces work for people as they get older, and, and I think, now, after, you know, years of work by us and others, people are starting to really realize, actually, it’s a hugely important part of the workforce, you know, it’s an experienced part of the workforce, older workers, as part of multigenerational teams improve productivity, they improve innovation. You know, there’s huge benefits in terms of mentoring and skills and knowledge transfer that happened. So, you know, this is really an asset for organizations. And it’s really actually, you know, delightful to see so many organizations recognizing that and being like, we want to shout about it. We want to talk to our employees about it, and we want to do something public.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 17:22
Okay, so that’s a successful program at ages on some success in the work initiative. How are you seeing progress? And are you a bit able to do much celebrating at this point, as you take a look at the initiatives and holes related both to those that are already built and those that are in new builds?
Emma Twyning 17:42
Yeah, really good question. So on the new build homes, so with that we’re trying to make all new build homes more accessible. As standard, we had a huge piece of success, again, a really good example of a coalition. So we have a formal coalition called housing made for everyone home for sure, which brings together disability aging and housing organizations to campaign for more accessible homes. And actually, we’ve had a bit of a breakthrough where the government has proposed to change building regulations to make them more accessible, and we’re waiting for the sort of next phase of that to be implemented. So we’re really keen to see more from the government on that. And we are, you know, continuing to talk about the importance of accessible homes to try and, you know, make sure that happens, ultimately. But that was a really lovely example of how different organizations from different points of view, different perspectives, different interest groups actually all thought that this is a really important thing. How can we get together and use our collective power to change it?
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 18:48
And I think that ultimately, this is another area where this may initiate a conversation and talk about older adults. But again, with the Age Friendly movement, I know that this is a concept that when we make these changes, and we’re thinking about older adults, they actually feel they actually affect everyone, and they can help improve the quality of life for everyone. I was just listening and my husband and I were having a conversation yesterday about the movement in this country, for hospitals at home, that people are not being kept in the hospital for very long at all. When this came up, in part, because a friend of mine, her brother, was in a car accident in December and was in the hospital for weeks and weeks. And then he had to go into rehab for a period of time. And then they’re like, Okay, you need to go home. Well, he could not return to his own home because they could not fit in the equipment that was needed for his care. Unfortunately, his their father has a home so he moved in with his father for a period of time before he was able to need some of that equipment. But as we think about some of these changes, issues that are happening. That’s not just an older, individual issue that’s going to be in this country. Anybody who’s hospitalized anybody who’s going to need care, we’re going to need to be able to provide that in our homes.
Emma Twyning 20:19
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Right. And there is a huge piece of the puzzle when you think about it. Yeah. So social care, and health care in this country, and you think about the need for people and the want for most of us to live as independently as possible. Well, if your home is often your home that prevents you from doing that. And if you have things like, you know, what wider doorways, if you had, if you didn’t have steps up to your front door, if you had a house where you could easily just change the bathroom, so, you know, it wasn’t a difficult situation for you to you know, wash and get in and out of the bath, you know, if you can make these changes simply really would just be, you know, really transformative. And you’re absolutely right, that there’s also you know, on a day to day level, if you’re a parent, if you have friends or relatives that, you know, have different levels of mobility issues, you know, these things really do help everyone.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 21:21
Yeah, by the way, my husband and I bought a new home about five years ago, and we love it. But it is a terrible home. There is nothing about this that is mobility, friendly, or age friendly. So when my mom comes to visit, she goes out through the garage, because she can hold on to the wall. Because out our front steps, there isn’t even a railing. And so we’re aware there’s some things that we need to do. We’re also aware this is not our forever home, you know, we’re here for a period of time, and that the next time we move, these are going to be considerations that are really important for us as we plan for our future selves.
Emma Twyning 22:07
Yeah, I don’t know about you guys in this country. I mean, housing supply is a big problem, generally. But the lack of accessible housing options, you know, is incredible when you consider the demographic change that we’re going through and the need for more accessible homes. So yeah, I just feel like it’s a huge oversight, actually, that we’re not looking at stuff like this. And of course, again, if you think about those people who don’t have very much money, or, you know, are in homes that they own, perhaps but they don’t have a particularly large income, you know, these things are all kinds of insurmountable challenges, surely. And then you find people really trapped in homes that are really no
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 22:50
good for them. Yeah, absolutely. Well, Emma, as you think about this work of the center, and you’re looking down the road, what’s next, which people know about your continued work? And how can they? How can they participate and help you support them even on this side of the bond?
Emma Twyning 23:10
Yeah, thank you for asking. So the campaign that I mentioned at the beginning, so shorthand, we call it an anti ageism campaign, but really, it’s going to be a campaign to change attitudes to aging. And that will launch in the autumn. And as I said before, it’s part of this wider movement that we want to build. And it’s not like we’re starting from scratch. There’s some amazing stuff happening already across the UK. And I’m sure in the US, too. And so really, what we want to do is try and in part to kind of knit some of that stuff together, and to kind of support and amplify that work. But if people listening and watching would like to find out more about that they can sign up to join our trendy movement. I can share a link, but I don’t know how best to do that. But it would be you know, they will hear about the campaign as it develops, they will hear we tried to share information around how people can challenge ageism, or interesting articles and things we’ve seen are examples of things that other people are doing. So yeah, that could be one way that people get involved. Also, you mentioned our image library before we’d be absolutely delighted if people wanted to have a look at that. Use it in their work. I mean, we have students using it in their kind of, you know, school and college work. We have newspapers using it, or government departments. So there’s a wide range of uses, and it’s all free to download, or the images are free to download and use as people want to.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 24:40
So we’re going to be in further conversation and well because here’s a connection. I volunteer on the ageism and advisory council of the American society on aging. And this October 7 will be the second year that we’re lifting that up as ageism awareness. This day, and so we have a campaign leading up to that. And so I think maybe we need to talk more about what we can learn? And how can we support each other’s campaigns and several kinds of hit hitting in the fall? Yeah, that was great. So one thing that we like to do when it comes to the end of our podcasts, just ask our guests three questions about your own perspectives of aging. So can I ask these of you? Yes, absolutely. Okay. Number one, when you think about how you’ve aged, what do you think has changed about you or grown with you that you really like about yourself?
Emma Twyning 25:38
Yeah, it’s a really interesting question. I think. And I think maybe it’s something that is commonly thought I feel much more self assured. I feel like I care much less what people think. I look back at things that, you know, really used to preoccupy me. And I think, what a waste of time and energy. So yeah, I love that. I care less.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 25:58
Fantastic. Okay, question number two, what has surprised you most about you, as you have aged?
Emma Twyning 26:08
I think the most surprising thing for me as I get older is that I don’t feel older. You know, It’s funny, we had this a lot in the focus groups we did around our ages and campaigns. I still generally feel the same. I know, I’ve changed in lots of ways. But it’s only when I think about my age in relation to other people, maybe colleagues or I bumped into someone I haven’t seen for a long time that I realized how much time has passed inside. I still feel very much the same. I don’t think that will change.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 26:38
Yeah, absolutely. I get it. And then the third question, is there someone you’ve met or worked with that has been in your life that has set a good example for you and aging someone that inspires you to age what we call aging abundantly?
Emma Twyning 26:57
Yeah, really tough question. So many people. I’ve been fortunate to work for so many brilliant women in my career, who I’ve really looked up to and lent a lot from. I would also just like to give a shout out to the US campaign, Ashton Applewhite, who I’m sure you’re very familiar with. Absolutely. I just love everything she does. I love her perspective. She’s so wise. And every time I hear her speak, I, you know, it makes me think differently. And it really enriches my perspective. So I would definitely say her.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 27:30
And we’ll give a plug for Ashton. She has a website called OldSchool.info. And I actually think that’s how I found the center for better aging to begin with because I know that you’re listed there as one of the one of the organizations from around the world that’s engaged in this work. Well thank you and our listeners for listening to this episode of The Art of aging part of the abundant aging podcast series from United Church homes. We want to hear from you. What’s changed about you as you’ve aged that you love? What has surprised you most? And how do you define abundant aging and who is your abundant aging hero or abundant aging influencer, you can join us at WWW DOT abundant aging podcast all one word.com to share your ideas. You can also give us feedback when you visit the Ruth Ross Parker center for abundant aging. Our website is www DOT United Church homes all one word.org backslash Parker dash center. And finally, keep October 6, the day before ageism Awareness Day on your calendar. And when we’ll be hosting our eighth annual symposium. You can join us live or virtually for a great day of sessions all around this year’s topic, which is dismantling ageism. And we’re really pleased that Dr. Tracey Gendron will be our keynote speaker. Tracy is a professor and head of the Gerontology department at Virginia Commonwealth University and we have multiple other speakers who are also related institutions, and I’m sure you’re aware of their work. And so that’s it for this episode. Just one last time. Emma, do you want to say how people can find you? Yes,
Emma Twyning 29:25
sorry. I’m just trying to get the H relay movement URL. So it is aging dash better.org.uk forward slash age dash friendly dash movement. If people want they can just go to aging better.org.uk and find their way from there.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 29:43
Can they spell it better? Both the American Way and it’s still fine?
Emma Twyning 29:49
Is ageing with an E. I’m sure if you Google it, it will come up.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 29:53
Yep, yeah. And centre with an e.
Emma Twyning 29:57
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 30:00
So now there are few differences. Well, thank you. That’s all for this episode and we’ll look forward to you joining us next time. Peace.
Emma Twyning 30:11
Thank you very much, Beth. Cheers.