Fostering Healthy Ageing
Healthy ageing is more than just the absence of disease, it is the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older age. Preventing ageism, ensuring a person-centred approach to patient care – without financial hardship, developing knowledge and skills in geriatric care and improving health literacy will help promote health. Ageing healthily is what we all aspire to, to maintain the functional ability that allows you to do the things you value. This means preserving both your physical and mental capacity as you age – it also means making changes to our environments (housing, transportation, public spaces etc.) so that they are accessible to and supportive of older people with varying needs and capacities. Key elements of healthy ageing include:
- Functional ability comprises the intrinsic capacity of the individual, relevant environmental characteristics and the interaction between them. There are five key domains of functional ability, each of which can be enhanced (or constrained) by environmental factors. These are the abilities to: meet basic needs; learn, grow and make decisions; be mobile; build and maintain relationships; and contribute to society.
- Intrinsic capacity comprises all the mental and physical capacities that a person can draw on and includes their ability to walk, think, see, hear and remember. The level of intrinsic capacity is influenced by several factors such as the presence of diseases, injuries and age-related changes.
- Environments include the home, community and broader society, and all the factors within them such as the built environment, people and their relationships, attitudes and values, health and social policies, the systems that support them and the services that they implement.
Actions to foster healthy ageing can help tackle inequities and ensure older people age safely in a place that is right for them, are free from poverty, can continue to develop personally and can contribute to their communities while retaining autonomy and health.
Healthy ageing can be a reality for all. Broad multisectoral, multidisciplinary action at all levels is needed to foster healthy ageing, making links beyond health to finance, planning, labour and social protection, and involving a variety of stakeholders.
IFA advocates for a life course approach to healthy ageing and calls for transformative change that would foster both longer and healthier lives. As such there is a call to improved access for health promotion and preventative interventions including but not limited to a comprehensive adult vaccine schedule, greater access to screening and care for oral, hearing, vision health and life style interventions to improve cognitive reserve.