Global Ageing Conference – Glasgow, 7 September
Hear from Research Fellow Jacob Sheahan, as he attends a global conference close to home.
Held at Glasgow’s Scottish Exhibition Centre, the two-day conference was an opportunity to link with Industry heavyweights and policy movers and shakers, with a keynote from Sir Geoff Mulgan focusing on optimistic futures of care. While representing the ACRC, I linked up with our colleagues Luis Soares and Sarah Kettley at the Healthier Working Lives project and found academy PhD candidate Anna Bryan amongst the crowds. Safe to say the two warmest days I've experienced in Scotland were spent indoors amongst local delegates and those abroad from Hong Kong, South Africa, Kenya, Canada, USA, New Zealand, and my homeland of Australia.
The first day saw several keynotes that captured many of the post-pandemic thinking and shifts in the sector, with Scottish Care’s Donald Macaskill calling for powerful stories of ageing. Sir Geoff Mulgan focused on re-thinking the care economy and community-based happiness and fun, followed by a global panel that discussed several perspectives from Ireland to South Africa on the case for reform.
After walking the exhibitions during lunch, and talking to the Hive Mind Social Care Collective and an ethical recruiting start-up, I saw two panels in the afternoon on person-centred care in rural Australia and the poverty informal caregivers face in Scotland and Northern Ireland, respectively. The former detailed an ethnographic smart home study centred on understanding the types of technologies that those ageing-in-place sought, documenting the chaos of robot vacuum-related issues and the strategic benefit of smart lighting solutions. The latter’s discussion of Carer’s Northern Ireland's Commission into informal caregiver poverty provided an extensive review of the financial impact of care over a lifetime, with a caregiver providing her voice amongst study data, with some indications of how we can better recognise and compensate the work of caregivers, such as Scotland's minimum income guarantee horizon.
Day two saw a truly global perspective brought by Claudia Mahler, the UN’s Independent Expert for Older Peoples, who seeks to bring together a Convention for those in later life that addresses the lack of acknowledgement of their human rights and individuality. Centred on what a dignified life looks like for those ageing and in care, a responding panel considered how an intersectional and sector-wide approach could see greater advocacy for the voice of older people in our work. In summarising the morning, Donald Macaskill drew on the words of Jimmy Reid regarding the alienation felt by industrialised Glaswegian communities to frame the humanity needed today in social care. During the later break, I heard about the East Sussex Council’s planning for life transitions initiative built around a dedicated volunteer workforce and mobile application.
I also dropped in on Anna presenting her work around the role of music in care homes, then headed to afternoon workshop sessions focusing on Care Technologists and avenues for active design for later life. Care Technologists are an initiative conducted through Scottish Care to support the uptake of commercial care technologies for social care in the home through several feasibility studies and test of change projects across Scotland. The later workshop explored other sustainable solutions to social care, drawing a panel with evidence from Hong Kong, Canada, and Scotland, to reframe how we advocate for communities of care and leverage social care as the 3rd largest contributor to the Scottish economy. Both days offered a diverse and impressive range of professionals from government, business, and academia, and left me with hope that the global care sector has a bold and optimistic agenda for older people and their wellbeing.