HEALTH

Mairead McGuinness Sets Out Vision for Active Ageing

Mairead McGuinness167 views
ageing

“Just as we are stopping placing children with disabilities into inappropriate institutions, in time we will come to see nursing homes as inappropriate for people who could otherwise live in their own homes using the latest technology and support,” – MEP Tells Conference

Tilting our health systems towards keeping people healthy rather than treating them when they are sick is a prerequisite to healthy ageing

While technology is part of the solution through ehealth mobile phone applications and better diagnostics we must be mindful not to underestimate the importance of social contact

Access to services, medical, social, shops and parks are all important

Exercise equipment in public parks targeted at older people, but available to all, is a very positive initiative

We need to plan now for the future and take steps to ensure a healthy and active life for all our citizens, First Vice President of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness MEP said opening a high level special event on digital transformation of health and care for active and healthy ageing in Brussel today organised by the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing.

“Active ageing begins at birth and the focus must be on encouraging people to look after their physical and mental health in order to ensure health and wellbeing in old age,” she said.

While Ireland’s population is still relatively young compared to other EU Member States, our demographics are changing with the percentage of Irish citizens over the age of 65 growing.

“We need to plan now for the future and take steps to ensure a healthy and active life for all our citizens.

Ms McGuinness emphasised the importance of this approach to ageing.

“Rather than people fearing growing old, we need to stress that ageing is a lifelong process and that taking steps to engage in a healthy lifestyle at a young age can make the difference between positive aging and a negative outcome,” she said.

“It is akin to our efforts to encourage people to think about their financial health in old age by thinking of the need to provide for pensions at the start of working life – not when retirement looms.”

She said people need information and support to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle and to age well.

“Prevention is better than cure, so tilting our health systems towards keeping people healthy rather than treating them when they are sick is a prerequisite to healthy ageing.”

Access to services medical, social, shops and parks are all important, she said.

“Exercise equipment in public parks targeted at older people, but available to all, is a very positive initiative.”

She said Ireland is giving a lead in this area as one of the first EU member states to have an Age Friendly Programme in every county coordinating innovation and action planning.

“As part of this Age Friendly programme, in Dundalk, Co. Louth, a purpose-built development of sixteen ‘smart’ apartments built to enable independent living and enhance quality of life are located strategically beside a Primary Health Care Unit, Council offices, a leisure centre, a social welfare office, church, pharmacy and bus stop.”

Ms McGuinness said while technology is part of the solution – through ehealth mobile phone applications and better diagnostics we must be mindful not to underestimate the importance of social contact.

“Studies show that older people benefit from the company of young children, yet homes and accommodation for older people typically removes them from this vital contact – this is something which needs to change,” she said.

“Just as we are stopping placing children with disabilities into inappropriate institutions, in time we will come to see nursing homes as inappropriate for people who could otherwise live in their own homes using e latest technology and support.  Home is where we all want to be and home is where older people also want to be and I believe that both design and technology that takes a whole of life approach is the way forward,” she said.

And she said the work underway in Dundalk Co. Louth, at the Netwell Centre* will make a difference. The Centre is a partner in the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing.

“This partnership is an important part of the transformation towards active ageing and better societies.  While many of today’s older generation fear technology, there is a whole new generation of very tech savvy people who will not fear technology but who will have embraced it and hopefully maintain their familiarity as they age – making the adoption of age friendly equipment and apps less traumatic than it often is for today’s older generation.

“This requires all regions of Europe to have access to high speed broadband and a huge effort is needed on this,” she concluded.

 

Footnote: The Netwell Centre is a collaborative venture formed between DKIT, the Dundalk Town Council (DTC) and the Health Services Executive (HSE)