Positive Ageing Policies and Successful Ageing
Read more from Agewell.
By Mike Milstein
Dr. Carla Herman, who is Chief, Division of Geriatrics at the University of New Mexico, was a featured presenter at a seminar held last year in preparation for the review of positive aging policies in the Nelson, Marlborough, and Tasman councils.
Dr. Herman has a keen interest in health policies and what a community can do to make it a good place to age. In fact, she believes that successful ageing should be the aim of well thought-out positive ageing policies. “A study by the MacArthur Foundation has identified key elements that promote successful ageing:
- Positive, can do attitudes,
- Good mental functions and staying challenged mentally,
- Social support (e.g., having a partner, participating in community organizations, and church going),
- Regular physical activities, and
- The belief in our ability to handle life’s events without undue stress.”
Dr. Herman thinks that New Zealand is rather unique in its promotion and support of a good quality of older life, particularly the emphasis put on ageing in place. She also is impressed by the fact that “each district health board develops its own priorities. To make it a good place to live, each community is encouraged to come up with its own strategies regarding the development of exercise programs, helping people stay in their own homes, and providing support for clear needs.”
She emphasizes that the increasing number of post-retirement people and the extended life span many of them are experiencing is requiring an increasing proportion of health care resources. This reality needs to be addressed by each council’s positive ageing policies. She recommends that the policy review process should address the following needs:
- “Access to screening and preventative measures for such things as dementia, high blood pressure and cancer,
- Access to low-cost exercise programmes,
- Easy to use information and community referral systems,
- Plans for social engagement for elders. Maintaining social support is crucial because studies show those with affiliations to church or secular organizations live longer,
- The need to view elders as assets, rather than burdens
- Availability of meals-on-wheels service and healthy food options,
- Access to good public transport,
- Suitable housing and housing options. Lots of interesting ideas are being trialed, including sharing houses and providing for a mix of private and shared spaces in communal houses.
- Training future health care workers to be aware of the needs of this age group, and
- Support for care givers.”
Dr. Herman believes that “the councils’ positive ageing policy reviews should be an exciting process. It’s never too late to start. Individuals and communities can make changes even when it is later in life. Ageing is a positive thing, especially when we develop relevant policies together. I look forward to hearing about how things progress. In fact, I will be taking some of the ideas that have come up here back to New Mexico.”Note: This article, which appeared in The Leader, Nelson, NZ, on April 23 2009, summarizes an interview aired by Fresh FM that was conducted by Dr. Annie Henry and sponsored by Age Concern, Nelson. If you want to share your thoughts with the Conscious Ageing Network (CAN) or wish to know when interviews will be aired and when CAN articles will appear in the Leader, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.