Using therapeutic clowns in long term care homes is a fairly new innovation. According to the Canadian Association of Therapeutic Clowns the first Canadian therapeutic clown program was founded in 1986 at the Winnipeg Children’s hospital. The association suggests that this may be the first formal therapeutic clown program in the world. Elder care is not mentioned in the association’s historical section until 2001 at a hospital in Windsor, Ontario.

Although therapeutic clowning is still typically associated with pediatric facilities, elder-clowning is gaining recognition. At the Canadian Association on Gerontology (CAG) annual conference last week, lead researcher Pia Kontos presented a research project entitled Playfulness, sadness, and the imaginary: Contributions of persons with dementia to elder-clowning.

The research project explored how older dementia patients in long term care homes engaged with elder-clowns and what they may “bring to the interaction including their own ways of being, provoking and performing”. The CAG presentation showed several videos of older adults playfully engaging with therapeutic clowns. The older adults were not only fully engaged and thoroughly enjoying themselves but also took the lead and created their own dynamic antics. On the other hand, Kontos discussed the need for therapeutic clowns to recognize when clients are sad and to validate their feelings rather than trying to cheer them up.

Findings of the research project “suggest visits were most successful when the elder-clowns were responsive to the deliberate playfulness and imaginativeness of those with dementia, and validated and supported residents’ expressions of sadness”.

As many of the sessions at CAG suggested, creativity has the potential to improve the lives of older adults in so many meaningful ways.

The Purchasing Power of Older Adults

Jessica LangeJessica Lange, age 65 in a 2014 ad for Marc Jacobs Beauty.

In today’s youth obsessed culture, advertisers often overlook older adults as potential consumers. However, for most companies to remain successful and relevant, they need to recognize older adults as a growing demographic with substantial purchasing power.

A 2014 Bank of Montreal Economics Report explains that older adults “in a little over a decade, will become the largest spending group, accounting for one in five shopping dollars versus one in seven today.” To put it another way “the typical senior is nearly nine times richer than the typical millennial, a wealth gap between similar age groups that has more than doubled since 1984”.

If they are not paying attention to this demographic today’s advertisers may be missing out on a huge opportunity.

Beth Hershfeld explains this phenomenon in an article entitled The Biggest Market you are not focused on: Opportunities of an aging population. Hershfeld suggests that “baby boomers and seniors are craving products and services to meet their changing needs” and that they have the “desire and money to pay for them”.

As an example Hershfeld uses the health and beauty products markets. She contends “although the mature market accounts for almost half of the beauty spending in North America, almost 70% of women in this demographic feel ignored by the fashion and beauty markets”.

In order to successfully market to older adults, Hershfeld stresses that advertisers need to be aware that, like any other demographic, older adults are not a homogenous group. In an article entitled Five Tips to Reach the Dominant Demographic: Marketing strategies to maximize potential with the mature market Hershfeld suggests the following tips for targeting the mature consumer market:

  1. Understand your target
  2. Be respectful
  3. Optimize product design for their needs
  4. Focus on substance not flash
  5. Help them maintain their independence

If you pay close attention, you can see advertising trends slowly changing to capture the older adult market. Misty Harris, in her article Timeless beauty: Seniors tapped for luxury makeup, fashion ads points out several companies that are embracing older adults as their models. One example is Marc Jacobs Beauty who enlisted Jessica Lange, age 65, as their new model.

If you are interested in marketing to older adults, join us at the next Business of Aging: Information Exchange Network (BA:IEN) quarterly meeting where Cathryn Oliver from Sheridan’s Faculty of Business and BA:IEN co-lead will discusses key facts about older adults as consumers. See below for details.

BAIEN mtg Oct_14 FINAL






Celebrate Canadian Library Month

cla-LibraryMonth-banner-web-e-v1-300x158“Canada’s libraries make a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals and in our communities. They help to inspire Canadians to celebrate our culture, to advance universal and equitable access to information, to support lifelong learning and to document and preserve our heritage for generations to come.”
~ Canadian Library Association

According to the Canadian Library Association there are 22,000 libraries in Canada serving 97% of Canadian communities. To honour your local library share your personal story online about ‘how libraries have touched your life and opened new opportunities’.

If you are experiencing difficulty reading due to vision loss, most libraries provide a large print book and audio book section. According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind vision loss and aging information, older eyes require better lighting. ‘It is also best to have a good light source coming from over your shoulder when you read’. For those of us using new technology there are apps available that turn your mobile device into a magnifying glass such as Eye Reader.

Libraries are the perfect source for life-long learning opportunities. Here are some books that are of interest to the Centre’s team:

  1. The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life
    by Gene D. Cohen
  2. The Longevity Revolution: The Benefits and Challenges of Living a Long Life
    by Robert N. Butler
  3. Aging as a Spiritual Journey by Eugene C. Bianchi
  4. The Blue Zones, 2nd edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner
  5. Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders by Mary Pipher
  6. Prime Time: How Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America by Marc Freedman
  7. Earth’s Elders: The Wisdom of the World’s Oldest People by Jerry Friedman

Contact your local library for Library Month events or access the Canadian Library Month Events Page.

National Seniors Day

poster-affiche“The Government of Canada is proud to pay tribute to the seniors who have helped build our country and continue to make valuable contributions to Canadian communities, workplaces and society.”

Canada’s National Seniors Day is celebrated annually on October 1st. The occasion is an opportunity to show your appreciation for the nearly 5 million older adults in Canada and to talk about issues facing the elderly. Check out the National Seniors Day Toolkit for resources and ideas to help you celebrate the older adults in your life and community.

The World Health Organization celebrates International Day of Older Persons on October 1st also. This year’s theme is Leaving No One Behind: Promoting a Society for All. To help celebrate International Day of Older Persons, HelpAge International ‘has launched the second Global AgeWatch Index – the only international index that ranks 96 countries according to the social and economic well-being of their older people.’ Canada continues to top the ranks at 4th place, up from 5th place in 2013.

International Day of Older Persons gives older adults a voice. Here is a small sampling of how different countries are talking about the day:

Australia – new.com.au
‘On International Day of Older Persons we spoke to three people to hear their tales of growing up, growing old and the lessons they have learnt along the way.’

Thailand – Bangkok Post
‘There are nearly 10 million elderly people in Thailand, most have chronic disease and about 200,000 are dependent on others, permanent health secretary Narong Sahametapat said on Wednesday. On the occasion of International Day of Older Persons, Oct 1, Dr Narong quoted Mahidol University as reporting that were 9.93 million Thai people aged 60 and over this year, and they formed 15% of the total population.’

Ireland – The Southern Star
‘October 1st is International Day of Older People and ALONE, the charity that cares for older people in need, is highlighting the fact that one in five Irish older people live in deprivation.’

Norway – BBC Newsworld
‘Norway is the best place to grow old, according to an index of the quality of later life in 96 countries.’

South Africa – AllAfrica
‘President Jacob Zuma has wished all senior citizens well on International Day of Older Persons, which is celebrated on 1 October. Many still contribute their wisdom and knowledge in the professional environment while many others remain powerful reservoirs of knowledge for the younger generation.’

Let us know how you are celebrating Seniors Day and Day of Older Persons in your community.