Getting older should be a pleasure

According to a UN report, most countries are experiencing an aging population in recent decades. In fact, the aging of the world's population is becoming one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century.

All regions have experienced a considerable increase in life expectancy since 1950: factors ranging from the increase in life expectancy at birth, through the implementation of social and health services, to improving the survival of people have been the main causes of this process. In addition, there are other issues that have had a direct impact on the aging of the world population: fertility reduction (thanks to advances in birth control measures) or economic boom cycles have a special impact on the mean age of the population. Immigration is another factor that has a direct impact on the aging of the population (aging countries that are left behind, and lowering the average age of the host population).

According to this report, there were 901 million people aged 60 or plus in 2015, an increase of 48 % over the 607 million older people there were in 2000. Between 2015 and 2030, the estimated data indicate that the number of people aged 60 and over will increase by 56 % from 901 million to 1400. If this figure is achieved, by 2050 the world population of older people will be more than double what it is in 2015, which would mean a figure of 2.1 billion.

It is in undevelopment countries where the proportion of the elders is two thirds of the total, being also its growth in these places much faster.

Taking into account the figures showing the evidence to which reality surrenders, in 1982 the Vienna International Plan of Action on Aging was agreed. As a result of a World Assembly on Aging, this document called for a start to develop specific actions in the areas of health, nutrition, protection of older consumers, housing and the environment, family, social welfare, security of income and employment, as well as education.

Almost ten years later, in 1991, the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Principles for Older Persons, which listed fundamental rights of older persons, including issues such as independence, social attention, personal fulfillment and dignity. Thus, a year later, the Proclamation on Aging was adopted and it was agreed that the year 1999 would be for the Elderly, and every year on October 1st.

It will be in the Political Declaration and its International Plan of Action on Aging, in 2002, when an international policy on the subject was designed, aiming at a change of attitudes, policies and multilevel practices to take advantage of the great potential of the elderly in the 21st century. Thus, measures for the development of the elderly, the promotion of health and well-being in old age begin to be adopted. Governments will be responsible for promoting and supporting this population in a special way. The term "active aging" was coined.

The World Health Organization defines active aging as the process of optimizing health, participation and safety opportunities to improve the quality of life of people as they age. Active aging allows people to realize their potential for physical and social well-being and focuses on the elderly and the importance of giving a positive public image of this group.

Active aging, therefore, aims to improve the quality of life of people as they age, favoring their development opportunities for a healthy, participatory and safe life. It involves assuming and understanding this stage of life as a further cycle in personal development.

Taking into account the above data, it is clear that it is intended to reorganize global strategies to take into account who will be the majority of the planet's inhabitants in the not too distant future. But there is also a determining factor: the economic one. In global terms, active aging policies contribute directly to the economic development and competitiveness of European regions, influencing the market, society and job creation. This set the objectives within the strategy of the European Year of Active Aging (2012). The European Commission then emphasized the need to address concrete measures by Governments that could be tangible and quantifiable.

Despite these initiatives, the truth is that in Spain the commitment to measures of active aging have been very unequal in the different territories. The White Paper on Active Aging was then drafted under socialist government, giving a comprehensive X-ray of the situation in our country. Since then different areas of work have been implemented, although reality shows that it is an increasingly neglected area. In fact, we are currently experiencing social concern about the pensions situation, evidencing the lack of commitment to the situation of older people in our country.

In 2013, Evan Briggs, an American film director, presented the documentary "Present Perfect" which tells the experience of a center for adults in Seattle, which in turn was established as a kindergarten. This project shows the perfect balance between those who live life without haste and those who have all their lives ahead. At the time, it was a revelation. An evidence of a proposal with resounding successes: intergenerational coexistence is a shade-free benefit for both the youngest and the oldest.

But it was not in Seattle where they discovered it. It was not even the first place where these techniques were developed. A decade earlier, in Spain, a young researcher developed a method of active aging that today, twenty years later, has turned out to be quite an achievement. This is the Hoffman method. Catalina, who gives the name to the method, has just established an agreement whereby the Complutense University will take postgraduate studies for Specialist in Management and Management of Centers and Socio-Health Services for older people based on the Hoffman methodology.

Of all its programs, in Diario 16 we have witnessed the one who works the intergenerational coexistence. Thanks to a collaboration agreement between El Centro Vitalia Ferraz and the Sacred Heart School of Jesus de Rosales, for a week, children of all ages will spend a full day doing different activities with the elderly. They cook, sing, dance, play with the Nuca (toy-robot used for therapies), stories are told, and they paint their hands on colored paints that will then be immortalized as souvenirs on pieces of paper.

Daniel Valentín is one of the professionals of the center. He explains that this activity tries to unite two worlds that seem incompatible. "Children are not afraid or prejudiced, they are purely natural. The older ones, in a way, feel in a very similar way. "We have witnessed the day of the little ones. But there is also a longer project, and it is a voluntary action on those older students who go to the center in a regular way.

Valentin points out that it is not only a positive practice in terms of affectivity, sociability, but is very important at the cognitive level, assuming a huge benefit to curb certain degenerative diseases typical of senescence. Proportionally, the benefits for the little ones are also undeniable: they develop their capacity for empathy, learn from a young age to understand the different stages of life, socialize in a natural way with the elderly.

This type of projects, already developed in countries of northern Europe and in the United States, are still in their earliest phase in countries like ours, with experiences in the centers directed by Catalina Hoffman practically unique. For this researcher, awarded with her method with the Príncipe de Girona Foundation Award in 2013, "aging is an art and, therefore, we must learn to do it. Ultimately, it is a matter of years of pleasure and it is fundamental to transform the concept of aging into an active, vital, positive and healthy life model.”.

Ten WHO figures on global aging:

1.- The world population is aging rapidly.

2. We do not have evidence that old people are currently in better health than their parents.

3 .- The main health problems affecting the elderly are noncommunicable diseases

4.- The health conditions are different for each old person

5.- Health in old age is not a matter of chance

6.- At present, there could be more discrimination for reasons of age than for sex or race.

7.- In order to implement comprehensive measures of public health, we must completely rethink our conception of health in old age

8.- Health systems must be adapted to the needs of the older population

9.- In the 21st century, all countries must have comprehensive systems of chronic care

10.- All sectors and sectors of government must commit to the elderly to enjoy good health

Source: Diario 16
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Translated by: RedMaySal