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The Rise of Multigenerational Living

In southern Europe, many parts of Asia and the Middle East, it’s perfectly normal for extended families to live together, however for many people in western society, the notion of intergenerational living can be overwhelming and unappealing. The sacrifice of privacy and independence is often a driving force behind this distaste. Despite the stigma often associated with this type of living arrangement, intergenerational living is undoubtedly on the rise in western society. Such appears to be the case in Canada, where the latest data from a 2016 census illustrates a significant spike in the growth rate of multigenerational households showing a 37.5 per cent increase since 2001 with approximately 2.2 million people (6.3 per cent of the population) living in private households with at least three generations under one roof. Similar trends can be seen in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. As discussed in a recent article entitled “Family embrace: the rise of multi-generational living in Australia”, with affordable housing becoming increasingly difficult to find, and the precariousness often associated with balancing dual careers and child rearing, more and more young people are rethinking the idea of intergenerational living. This, combined with the reality that approximately 25% of older adults live alone, many of which struggle with issues of social isolation and apprehension about having to leave their homes and enter residential facilities, intergenerational living has become not only a viable option but an appealing one. Happy home: children Manning and Audrey with mother Zoe Flanagan-Field, Zoe’s parents, Robin and Warwick Mosman, and father Craig Field, outside the home they share in the Blue Mountains. Credit: Jennifer Soo Family embrace: the rise of multi-generational living in Australia This is not to say that multigenerational living is completely straightforward. In an article entitled “Multigenerational living is on the rise – here's how to get the balance right” many factors and considerations underlying successful multigenerational living are explored. These considerations range from the physical building design and construction where architects building generational homes stress the importance of ensuring mobility and autonomy for older adults. This can include prioritizing main floor living arrangements for older adults and independent living space where possible to encourage socialization.Other considerations include developing social contracts, which can be crucial in mitigating tensions around boundaries and independence. As Robert Wilson, architectural director of Granit architects, explains “It’s easier to navigate these dynamics if you’ve discussed arrangements in advance.” Zoning the space, sorting out technology and even investing in plenty of chairs are all additional considerations to help further support success. While intergenerational living may not be everyone’s cup of tea, to many it represents a new reality which not only allows for a future that may otherwise have been out of reach, and an opportunity to foster meaningful intergenerational relationships. To learn more about intergenerational living and connections contact IFA expert Donna Butts, Executive Director of Generations United and don’t forget to register here or the IFA 15th Global Conference on Ageing where age-friendly environments will be featured prominently.Family embrace: the rise of multi-generational living in Australia Multigenerational living is on the rise – here's how to get the balance right IFA Expert Profile

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Combating loneliness in the “caged” life

Although the rapid implementation of physical distancing and self-imposed quarantine is necessary to contain the spread of coronavirus, it has left many people, and particularly older people, feeling more alone than ever before. A recent study conducted from Bar-Ilan University and the University of Haifa has linked COVID-19-based loneliness in older adults with elevated psychiatric symptoms of anxiety, depression, and trauma. However, the association is only evident among those who felt subjectively older than their biological age but not in those who felt younger. "The way older adults perceive old age and their own aging may be more important to their coping and wellbeing than their chronological age," said the principal investigator, Prof. Amit Shrira. The findings suggest that lowering perception of age is a gateway to mitigate the negative impact of loneliness in older adults.The profound effects of social isolation and loneliness on the health and functional ability of older people are also astounding. The report “Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults” by the National Academies of Sciences revealed that social isolation has been associated with a significantly increased risk of premature mortality from all causes, including a 50% increased risk of developing dementia, a 29% increased risk of incident coronary heart disease, a 25% increased risk for cancer mortality, a 59% increased risk of functional decline, and a 32% increased risk of stroke. Given the mental and health risks of social isolation, which have been starkly portrayed during the current pandemic for all ages, but most especially older people separated from loved ones and community actions and activities, it is essential that innovative ways to connect become the norm rather than a novelty. Also important is to encourage a positive thinking on isolation to relieve the emotional burden of physical distancing and prevent or reverse loneliness in a time of self-quarantine among older adults."We should take this opportunity to learn again what it really means to be social and find new forms of social connection. Older adults, in fact, have a wisdom that can be protective against loneliness because they tend to value the quality of their relationships over the quantity." said Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the Brain Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, in a recent interview with ABC News. To learn more about how to keep a positive attitude under the emotional stress of social isolation during the pandemic, please contact IFA Expert Dr Emily A. Greenfield, Associate Professor of Social Work at the State University of New Jersey.COVID-19 loneliness linked to elevated psychiatric symptoms in older adults Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults The unspoken COVID-19 toll on the elderly: Loneliness IFA Expert Profile

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When COVID-19 meets Flu Season

Coronavirus disproportionally affects vulnerable populations including older people and those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, and heart and lung disease. Every year, these same individuals are most impacted by seasonal influenza, with CDC estimates suggesting that 70-85% of influenza related deaths have occurred among people aged 65 years and older. Where death is not the result, influenza can lead to hospitalizations, long standing diminished function as well as acute or long-term complications. A recent Vaccines Today article written by IFA Expert Mr. Gary Finnegan, Editor of Vaccines Today, explains that although a coronavirus vaccine will not be available for the winter of 2020/2021, vaccines are available that protect against influenza. Mr Finnegan goes on to explain that despite this “every year, huge numbers of people who should be vaccinated are not.” The public often underestimates the impact of influenza on the individual and their family; as well as health and social care systems.Vaccinations against diseases such as influenza have been proven to effectively reduce the risk of adverse consequences for adults with chronic diseases and prevent decline in functional ability of older people. A life course approach to vaccination is therefore critical to healthy ageing. Secretary General of IFA, Dr Jane Barratt adds to this point: “We need to look at flu vaccination rates, but also immunization against pneumococcal disease and shingles. Many of the same people suffering the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak are also those who would benefit from these vaccines.”It is for these reasons that IFA, for over 9 years now, has been advocating for a life course approach to vaccination, with focus on at-risk groups. IFA’s work on vaccination, Vaccines4Life, is set within the context of the WHO Decade of Healthy Ageing, and is aligned with the WHO Immunization Agenda 2030. Under this portfolio of work, IFA envisions a world of healthy older people whose rights to safe and appropriate vaccines are respected through programs that hold high the principles of prevention, access and equity. Removing barriers impeding access to vaccination such as cost and complex vaccination pathways are critical to ensuring people of all ages are protected and no one is left behind. One way influenza vaccination rates could be improved is through pharmacists as a vaccinator gateway. In countries such as Portugal, Switzerland, Norway and the United Kingdom, pharmacists are able to administer vaccinations if they complete the required training. This can allow for greater reach to at-risk groups such as older people who may not typically go out of their way to be vaccinated by their doctor. The pharmacist-vaccinator gateway is important for not only influenza season, but also could be useful when a COVID-19 vaccine is released. Do you have an interesting article, video, webinar or podcast that speaks to improving vaccination rates for at-risk groups? Submit your document to the new IFA VacciNet database to share this important knowledge, and reach out to IFA experts Mr Finnegan and Dr Barratt for further comments on the topic area. To learn more on the interrelationship between COVID-19 and other age-related matters (including grandparenting, technology and ageism) visit IFA’s COVID-19 resource library.

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Working Together to Defeat Invasive Meningococcal Disease

April 24 is World Meningitis Day, and on this day, the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) together with the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO) and Immunize Canada want to remind you that meningococcal disease is a health risk you should not take.

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