South Florida Institute on Aging “How We Age Matters” Symposium Delivers Practical Support to Older Adults

Renowned American Anthropologist Dr. Johnetta B. Cole addressed agism, diversity and inclusion

Frank discussions covering an array of topics relating to aging highlighted the successful South Florida Institute on Aging (SoFIA) fifth annual symposium.

Held virtually, the symposium titled “How We Age Matters” brought together experts to speak on socio-economic issues faced by older adults from economic stability and inclusion to workforce marketability, behavioral health and telehealth efficacy. SoFIA also announced that the non-profit will focus its community services and advocacy around five important pillars: technology 2.0, economic stability, social equity, civic engagement and caregiving.

Speaker Dr. Johnetta B. Cole and SoFIA President and CEO Nikki Austin-Shipp

“This year’s symposium explored what matters most to all of us because we will all age,” said SoFIA President and CEO Nikki Austin-Shipp. “Most of us aspire to age well, but the pandemic has really exposed our society’s deficiencies and barriers to thriving as we age. The only way to facilitate lasting and necessary change is through education, collaboration and action, and that is what we are working to achieve. We had a who’s who of speakers that did a superior job of covering how we age matters.”

American Anthropologist Johnnetta B. Cole, PhD., national chair and seventh president of the National Council of Negro Women, former first Black female president of Spelman College, former director of the National Museum of African Art and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, spoke about the implicit bias older workers face when looking for jobs or working within an organization.

Dr. Cole noted that companies need to be held accountable for creating a corporate culture of inclusion with dedicated jobs created to explicitly tackle the complex issues of inclusion among employees. “There is a difference between being represented and being included,” she said. “People may be invited to the table, yet still don’t feel like they belong or welcomed. Our country’s greatest enemy is hopelessness.”

Dr. Cole urged older adults seeking to increase their marketability in today’s modern world to “train-up,” keep abreast of what is going on in the world and to never see oneself as “too old, or too useless” for new endeavors. In response to ageism, Cole encouraged people to speak up and speak out, to get educated and gain strength through collaboration.

Symposium attendees were able to engage collaboratively through the Remo platform, which allowed groups to network virtually between speaking sessions, resulting in a spirited interactive exchange enjoyed by all. This forum encouraged conversation and problem solving to better help adults thrive as they age, while providing information on community efforts and resources.

Moderated by host Edwin O’Dell and SoFIA President and CEO Nikki Austin-Shipp, this year’s speakers, in addition to Dr. Cole, included keynote speaker Economist Rodney Sampson, CEO of Opportunity HUB-Inclusive Startup Ecosystem Builder; Senior Vice President of Global Thought Leadership at AARP Dr. Jean Accius; Executive Director of Northend RISE, Inc. Craig Glover; Director of the Broward County Office of Economic and Small Business Development (OESBD) Sandy-Michael McDonald; Mark Doyle, President and CEO of Holy Cross Health, a member of Trinity Health; Dr. Moshin Jaffer of the Mohsin & Fauzia Jaffer Foundation; Regional Manager of External Affairs for FP&L Juliet Roulhac; William Manzie, Administrative Director of Telehealth Strategy for the Memorial Healthcare System; and Licensed Psychologist and Program Coordinator for Mental Health Counseling for Students at Albizu University Dr. Tania Diaz.

Telehealth was a particularly hot topic during this year’s symposium due to its relevancy and practicality throughout the pandemic. Led by health leaders and experts from Holy Cross Health, Memorial Healthcare System and AARP, speakers discussed how telehealth can be incorporated into an effective care plan and successfully used to combat racial and age discrimination. Sessions also delved into important topics such as bridging the digital divide, using technology as a means to healthier living, behavioral health for caregivers and economic stability.

“The profound takeaways from this year’s symposium will surely enrich SoFIA’s programs and services as we continue to expand our community outreach,” added Austin-Shipp. “We can’t wait to take what we have learned during this symposium and use it more adeptly to empower older adults throughout our communities who are in critical need of our support.”

Sponsors of “How We Age Matters” included AARP, Holy Cross Health, CGCN, Comcast, FPL, Mastercard, Truist, Responsive Home Care, Florida Community Loan Fund, ASZ Caring Hearts, Belmont Village, BMK, Chen Senior Medical Center, Friedman Elder Law, Memorial Regional Hospital, United Rental, East Coast Networks, Feller Financial Services-Richard Koblick, Jorja M. Williams, Esq., LL.M., Partner, KPMG, The Kelley Law Firm, PL and Taking on United Childhood Challenges Harmoniously (TOUCCH) and WLRN. There were 18 new sponsors for this year’s symposium.