During the same week that Harold Bodmer made his inaugural speech as ADASS President, the New York Times ran a story about 100-year-old Ida Keeling, who, on a sunny April afternoon, laced up her mustard yellow sneakers and took to the track at the Fieldston School in the Bronx.

Ms Keeling holds the national record for the 60 metre dash for American women aged 95-99. She began running at the age of 60 as an antidote to depression following the sudden death of her two sons, and this year hopes to become the national champion for women aged over 100. By my reckoning, that makes Ms Keeling a Black Swan (bear with me, this is relevant).

At the same time, on our side of the water, The ADASS conference kicked off with a memorable address from the new President, where in a welcome shift from the usual gloom and doom of dealing with the here and now, Harold cast his eye back over the past 10 years before encouraging us to look ahead to the next decade. He did address the present too of course, deftly and simply naming his five top priorities:

  • funding pressures
  • integration
  • social work education and training
  • market sustainability and the homecare workforce
  • the new carers’ strategy.

Under Harold’s leadership, if we can make progress against each of these priorities during yet another difficult year, we will have done well.

Harold also made a couple of personal statements that resonated with me - especially his words about implementation of the Dementia strategy in Norfolk - all ahead of the game and very future focused. 

In ten years, Harold’s cohort of 80 year olds will be in their 90s, while Ms Keeling will hopefully be contemplating winning the 60 metre race for 110 year olds. At the same time, ADASS members will need to invest in better data, linking it across health and social care, and predictive analytics. 

We can all experience “black swan” moments, and while I may not be much of a runner, I do know that in the case of predictive analytics we cannot afford to second-guess the answers. Over the next decade, it will be crucial for the sake of current and future Ms Keelings, to ask the right questions in order to find the right answers and the right solutions for better care.

This will require using data to maximise certainty and minimise those black swan moments – yet at the same time, we need to delve down and look for those black swans so that we can fully understand what that data is telling us.

Here’s to the next ten years, Ms Keeling!