2009 CARP Conference offers a new look at aging

Those who believe that “old age” means resigning oneself to the rocking chair would have been surprised at the energy surrounding this year’s CARP Conference.

The second annual event took place on October 29 in Toronto and was designed to reflect many of the same themes as ideaCity, Canada’s Premiere “Meeting of the Minds” and visionary think-tank. Although CARP (derived from Canadian Association of Retired Persons) draws up images of those 65 years and up, the target market actually reflects the 45 Plus crowd – or Zoomers. The term Zoomer (baby-boomers with zip) is the brainchild of media guru Moses Znaimer who believes that this group still has the ability to create influential and positive change in society.

The one day CARP event featured 16 of the world’s brightest minds. Speaker content was divided into four sections: New Vision of Aging Overview, Extraordinary Lives, Self-Deliverance and Healthy Living. While the content focused on the challenges of the aging process, there was plenty of room for inspiration from both the young – and the young at heart.

The show-opening performance of nine-year old cellist and music prodigy San Rim was a moving reminder that the energy and dreams we once felt in our youth shouldn’t be forgotten as we advance into old age. We are all capable of performing and making a difference – if even in small ways – and that difference can be maintained throughout life.

The art and science of aging gracefully was a theme evident throughout the conference. Daniel Perry, Executive Director of the not-for-profit Alliance for Aging Research in Washington D.C., emphasized the need to focus on the underlying science and biology of aging to meet the challenges of the oncoming “silver tsunami.” Isabel Hoffmann-Miles, President of the Iberian Chapter of the World Academy of Anti-Aging, discussed aging diseases and the ongoing threat of environmental and chemically processed contaminants to our health.

Perhaps the highlight of the conference belonged to three speakers who were rapidly approaching (one of whom had already approached) their 100th birthday. Diana Athill, a British literary editor and novelist who worked with some of the most important writers of the 20th century, spoke about the “rhythm in life” and the importance of living in the present moment.

Sydney Bacon, a 99 year-old retired businessman, raconteur and 35 year resident of the Sutton Place Hotel in Toronto, reminded us to take time to nourish relationships and make friends. The best way to negotiate the hurdles and pressures in life was to follow Shakespeare’s adage and take time to “know thyself” and “to thine own self be true.”

Jaring Timmerman, a 100 year old swimmer and holder of four world records in his age group, summarized the secret to longevity through an acronym – GEDS. Genes, Exercise, Diet and Spirit are all key elements in maintaining an enthusiastic and joyful life. Timmerman, who swears he never took a pill in his life, refers to a combination of “Vim, Vigour and Vitality” to ensuring a long life.