A healthy active populous is an asset to societyihtacontrol
With the month of April upon us and the promise of blue skies and sunshine to follow, readers must be optimistic that better days are ahead, vacinated numbers increase daily and at time of writing, it is expcted that commercial and social restrictions will be reducing as the summer unfolds.
Without dwelling too much on the global upheavel of the past 15 months or so, I feel it would be remiss not to mention that the pandemic prompted focus and attention on our elderly citizens who were disproportionately affected, our elderly are a demograph in my view, overlooked and unseen for far too long.
Here in Ireland, recent Eurostat figures showed that the average life expectancy of a new-born in our fair island in 2018 was 82.3 years, up from 80.8 years in 2010, and above the EU average of 81 years. The highest life expectancy of all was recorded in the Spanish region of Madrid where women could expect to live to 88.1 years. The figures also show that an average EU or Irish resident who had survived to the age of 65 could expect to live about 20 years more.
In December 2020, researchers at the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at Trinity College released a comprehensive report titled “The Older Population of Ireland on the eve of the COVID-19 Pandemic” detailing the health, social and economic circumstances of older adults in Ireland at that time.
Dr Christine McGarrigle, co-author on the report, said:
“The findings in this report provide a robust resource from which to draw to help advance future health policy in Ireland. This report addresses the influence of lifestyle and behavioural habits, such as smoking and physical exercise, which can significantly impact health outcomes in later life….
It also shows that older adults in Ireland can and do age well, and remain positively engaged with their communities and with society and that they are on the whole engaged with a range of services and activities online.
While it could be said that healthy and active ageing is a personal choice and responsibility, it is true nonetheless that our policy makers at national and European level recognise that achieving same depends heavily on the environment in which people live, work and socialise.
In January of this year, the European Commission published a “Green Paper on Ageing -fostering solidarity and responsibility between generations”. The Green Paper launched a 12-week public consultation open until April seeking contributions from stakeholders and the public which will be taken into consideration by the Commission regarding future policy.
So policy makers, take this opportunity to be wise in your decision making, ensure any initiatives undertaken provide for support systems that nurture and encourage the autonomy, independence and rights of older people and that your proposals welcome their continued participation in society.
We have created a world through improved lifestyles and medical progress where unprecedented numbers of our populous now enjoy long and healthy lives, many of us remain active for longer, some of us extend our work careers and most of us continue to participate in social activities after retiring. However, despite improved healthy life expectancy, it is a fact that the older one becomes, the higher the chance of illness or disability.
There are no quick or thrifty solutions available to global policy makers to provide an effective and caring healthcare system for the elderly population. Such an onerous task continues to be a challenging and costly undertaking for policy makers globally, a successful healthcare system requires solidarity and responsibility between generations.
Healthy and active ageing is not only a valuable asset that contributes to the growth and productivity of the economy, healthy older people also contribute substantially in other ways to our societies, through paid work, family care often unsupported and community volunteering.
We need to appreciate the gift that active ageing presents, we all age, it is part of our evolutionary process and with focused and relevant environmental support, healthy aging should be an attainable goal for people of all ages, pre and post pandemic.