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A Call for Collaboration: Our Field Needs to Come Together—And We Know It

Susan Donley December 3, 2019

Stria publisher Susan Donley shares her take-aways from the 2019 State of the Longevity Market Survey.

This year’s State of the Longevity Market Survey offers many insights worth consideration by those of us who work to improve what it means to grow old. How do we build infrastructure to make it possible for people to age in place? How do we integrate older people back into the lives of our communities? How do we tap the vast potential of older Americans instead of pushing them out of productive society? How do we pay for our collective vision of purposeful, healthful, longer lives?

As I reviewed the ideas and insights shared by Stria readers and industry leaders, I was struck by one overarching solution that arose again and again: cross-sector collaboration. As one respondent said “I believe new solutions for the new longevity economy will depend upon our ability to collaborate and partner across many industries.”

So do I.

We need to work more closely together, sharing innovation and perspective with peers from all parts of the field. And we need reach beyond our core community to bring more disciplines into the longevity market. Our field is growing quickly, but we cannot do it alone.

A vision of collaboration is one of the reasons I founded this media platform. Stria is designed to be a place where disparate ideas about aging come together. Here, professionals from all corners of the field can reflect on what’s next, share innovative approaches and consider new ways of working to embrace longevity. We can learn from one another, see the big picture and maybe even find unexpected inspiration.

If we’re going to make the fast-moving progress needed to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of this moment, this kind of convening is a critical—especially in a field that has been siloed for so long.

Survey respondents noted again and again how disconnect we are from one another:

“There are still too many silos and dysfunctionality across the spectrum within this longevity market.”

There’s a “need for and pro-active involvement in cross-organizational collaboration to leverage long term support services and improve quality of life for the aging.”

Our fragmented field even came up among respondents’ biggest worries about aging in America, with one respondent citing the “stove-piped vision and approaches that are natural to organizations, people, and the bureaucratic nature of modern society.”

Don’t Just Talk About It, Seize the Opportunity

I’m heartened to see that so many survey respondents identified our fractured field as a challenge – but that’s just the first step. We need to find ways to actually bridge those gaps with meaningful, productive partnerships.

One way to start is for each of us to get out into the wider longevity community. In 2020, we can seek out new voices and points of view that broaden how we think about our own work. Attend a new conference, networking event or join a webinar held by an organization you don’t already know well. Read essays and interviews with leaders you haven’t yet met. Follow a few new faces or hashtags in social media. By opening up our professional world, we can begin to see new opportunities and identify new partners.

Of course, we need to be thoughtful and strategic as we develop cross-sector collaborations. A list of partners on your website won’t deliver many tangible outcomes. But, as one survey respondent noted, “Breaking down the silos and cross functional learning is a big opportunity.”

The real potential of partnerships comes from tapping into each other’s strengths to accommodate our own weaknesses, and supporting each other’s goals (both mission-minded and business-driven goals). “We need to produce partnerships to obtain better economic results of the partners involved,” commented one survey participant. Collaborations can—and should—grow the effectiveness and productivity of both partners.

This survey respondent summed it up: “Many times I think we are our own worst enemy. We have to be smarter about aligning values and creating cost and time effective partnerships to advance the cause of aging adults and their needs.”

As we move into the new decade, I hope our field can break through the silos that hold us back. Just think of all the good we can do together.

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Susan Donley

Susan Donley is Publisher and CEO of Stria. She is dedicated to improving the lives of older people through powerful media and communications. Previously Susan served as Publisher and Managing Director of PBS's Next Avenue.

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