Dr. Isabel Jones and the Working Women in an Ageing Society International Conference

Fukuoka Now contributor Hannah Smith sat down recently with Dr. Isabel Jones to learn more about plans for a major conference on retirement and gender.

Japan is known for its aging population. Whilst the secret to the Japanese seemingly unchanging, youthful appearance remains something of a mystery, Dr. Isabel Jones is trying to discover how to make the most of the older generation and ensure they have a suitable place in society. In the first of three global Working Women in an Ageing Society (WWAS) conferences the ideas of retirement and gender are to be discussed at a three-day event at the Fukuoka International Conference Center from June 3 to June 5, 2016.

Dr. Jones, principal chair of this conference, pursued careers in teaching and research in her native England, before retiring five years ago. It was her own retirement which sparked her interest in the older generation and what happens in this next phase of life. For her, retirement was something big and unknown and she knew she wouldn’t be alone in perceiving it as such. What do you do when you retire? How can you continue to be a valuable member of society?

Dr. Isabel Jones talks to Fukuoka Now about the conference on gender and ageing she is organising in Fukuoka.

Dr. Isabel Jones talks to Fukuoka Now about the conference on gender and ageing she is organising in Fukuoka.

Dr. Jones set up two organisations which are designed to help those who are transitioning into their retirement; in the UK she established Stepping Across the Line-Exploring Transition (SALT), a non-profit organization promoting research into and debate about the extension of working life and the transition into retirement. Her husband’s career brought them to Japan two years ago and she founded Tsugi Wa Nani? (“What’s Next?”) in Fukuoka, a group which organises meetings for retirees where they can exchange experiences.

In light of its unique demographic, Dr. Jones considers Japan the “right place to start this debate.” Indeed she believes that the rest of the world can benefit from the “lessons which Japan has learnt” with regards to managing an aging population and ensuring that the elderly continue to play an active role in society for their own personal well-being, as well as for the health and growth of their country.

The forthcoming conference will discuss how to advance the active participation of women and seniors in society. Dr. Jones believes that aging people are very active and that part of the problem is society’s approach to the aging population. It is thus hoped that this conference will provoke a “change in attitude to the process of aging.”

A key component of the conference will be the Global (global + local) Café, which has been added in order to set this conference apart from typical, purely academic conferences. This will facilitate discussion and stimulate the exchange of innovative ideas to promote a better aging society for all.

At the conference, speakers from the UK, the USA, Holland, Singapore and Japan, will share their knowledge and expertise in the fields of gender, aging, womenomics, entrepreneurship and employment. Dr. Jones is particularly looking forward to Ms. Elizabeth Isele (President of Senior Entrepreneurship Works) giving her presentation on “Starting a Business After Retirement.”

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The conference is led by Working Women in an Ageing Society (WWAS), but it will discuss retirement in relation to both genders and is “for everybody”. In fact in Japan especially, Dr. Jones believes retirement to be particularly difficult for men, for whom work is often the key component of their identity. Local residents and students in particular are invited to attend the conference and participate in discussions, offering their own perspectives on the issues and generating ideas which could eventually be used to create new policies.

It will be a bilingual conference and includes simultaneous translation on day one and both simultaneous translation and some language specific events on day two. The three-day event will be comprised of business seminars, networking events, panel discussions and open forum discussions as part of a vast program of events. There are several notable female, Japanese academics who will be speaking at the event including Dr. Kimiyo Sasaki, Senior Research Fellow at the Asian Aging Business Center (AABC). A graduate of Fukuoka University and Kyushu University, Dr. Sasaki now carries out surveys and runs workshop about what the local community should do for a future, super-aging society.

The conference has been organised with the support of many leading organisations in Fukuoka who have contributed “time, energy and money.” Both Kyushu University and Fukuoka Women’s University are involved with the set-up and Dr. Jones recognises the extensive support network surrounding this conference as indicative of the importance of these issues.

Looking ahead, Dr. Jones hopes to “take forward a legacy of this conference” and continue pushing the debate and discussion with a conference on the same theme in Derby, England next year and Vancouver, Canada the year after. After this conference, Dr. Jones will be returning to England where she says she may retire, although she hopes to set up a type of career service for retirees.

Registration for this event is now available online. Graduate students are encouraged to submit posters and abstracts. Keep up to date with the event via the WWAS Facebook page or their official website http://www.ww-as.net/

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Text: Hannah Smith, for Fukuoka Now

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