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Evolution: From Age Wave to Longevity Project

Jan 13, 2020

Co-led by Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging, and VCU Gerontology, the Longevity Project for a greater Richmond (formerly called Age Wave) has a mission to make our region a great place for all people to grow old. We work to create communities that are Engaged, Livable, Stable, and Well for all ages.

150 stakeholders from around the region convened to create the Greater Richmond Age Wave Readiness Plan published in 2013, which provides a map of components essential to preparing for the challenges and opportunities of our demographic shift by defining the goals, indicators, objectives and strategies to achieve an inclusive community. The Plan provides a tool for strategic planning coordinating efforts, achieving economies of scale and measuring progress.

Evolution: From Age Wave to Longevity Project

Our understanding is evolving and we want our language and vision to reflect this shift. When we embarked on the development of the Greater Richmond Age Wave Coalition the emphasis was on the numbers. Now, ten plus years into this adventure we are learning daily that there are important messages missing from this numbers narrative. 

We need a lifespan perspective. To think in terms of the age wave equals thinking in terms of “this many people turning 65.” This is to think in binary: you are or you aren’t old. We know this isn’t representative of our stories, our lives. Longevity encompasses the whole person's multidirectional, multidimensional, historically and culturally embedded lifespan. 

We need an emphasis on Inclusion and celebration of our heterogeneity of age and the aging experience. “You cannot be choosy about inclusivity.” We must be intentional. This intentional longevity equity lens is missing from the original age wave narrative. Whether this inequity stems from ongoing racism present in policy, the gendered nature of poverty in our practices and in our language, the layered barriers to a living wage, or regional disparities replicated throughout our history, if equity is our value that equity must be our practice. 

Inclusion and celebration of our heterogeneity are at the heart of person centered and trauma informed practices. Seeing these practices become real is how we will know we are living our values.

We need a narrative that demands longevity equity. Longevity is a privilege we don’t all yet enjoy. To only plan for our neighbors who do live longer and not others, we’re excluding so many in our region. Existing and historic systems and institutions in our region have not been well designed to equitably provide a high quality life, resulting in longevity disparities: Life expectancy in Westover Hills is 83 years, while life expectancy in Gilpin in 63 (VCU Center of Society and Health.) 

These learnings have led to our evolution as a coalition, as individuals, and as professionals working to make this region a great place for all people to grow old.