The World Health Organization (WHO), a few days ago, published its Baseline Report for a Healthy Aging Decade, which contained useful insights into the status of older world populations and what health authorities and policy makers and partners could do international development is done to ensure that this group of people are not left behind.
According to the report, at least 14 percent of all people aged 60 and over – more than 142 million people – are currently unable to meet all their basic daily needs. The report brings together available data for measuring healthy aging, defined by WHO as “the process of developing and maintaining the functional capacity that enables older well-being”.
WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus notes that human beings are now living longer than at any time in history. “But adding more years to life can be a mixed blessing if not adding more life to years.”
He said the Baseline Report for a Decade of Healthy Aging has the potential to transform the way policy makers and multiple service providers engage with older adults. The report also discusses what is needed to promote collaboration and better measure progress towards healthy aging.
WHO states that “functional capability” optimization is the goal of the Healthy Aging Decade, which begins in 2021 and addresses five interrelated capacities that all older people should enjoy: the ability to meet basic needs; continue to learn and make decisions; to be mobile; building and maintaining relationships; and contributing to society.
The Baseline Report presents the experience of countries that have successfully initiated healthy aging initiatives in each of these areas, such as Ireland, Mexico and Vietnam. It also emphasizes that older adults must be engaged at all times.
According to the report, only a quarter of countries worldwide collect similar data that can be used to monitor global progress toward healthy aging. The report presents some countries that collect and use data to improve policies and programs for and with older people. These countries are Chile, China, Finland, Ghana, India, Qatar, Singapore, and Thailand.
A number of indicators that countries will report as demonstrating a commitment to healthy aging have been agreed by WHO Member States as part of the Global Strategy on Aging and Health 2016-2020 and approved in 2020 together with -the topic of the Healthy Decade. Aging 2021-2030. Examples are the establishment of a national committee or forum on aging; comprehensive assessments of older people’s health and social care needs; and a policy on strengthening long-term care.
It should be noted that the Caribbean has been recognized as one of the fastest growing older populations in the developing world. This certainly poses its own challenges, and Governments and other actors will be required to take the necessary measures to ensure that this segment of the population lives healthier and more productive lives.
No doubt among the more pressing issues affecting older people are health concerns and the quality of care provided to them on a daily basis. Therefore, it is vital for Governments to put in place systems that would allow older people to get the health services they need.
The new WHO Guidelines on Integrated Care for Older People recommend ways in which community-based services can help prevent, slow down or reverse a decline in older people’s physical and mental abilities. The guidance also requires health and social care providers to coordinate their services around the needs of older people through methods such as comprehensive assessment and care plans.
The Course Director of the Department of Aging and Life at WHO, Dr John Beard, had previously stated that older adults are more likely to experience chronic and often multiple conditions at the same time. Yet today’s health systems are generally focused on the detection and treatment of individual acute illnesses.
He reasoned that if health systems are to meet the needs of older populations, they must provide continuing care that focuses on the issues that matter to older people – chronic pain, and difficulties with hearing, seeing, walking or performing activities Every day. On this basis, he noted that this requires much better integration between care providers.
The health authorities in Guyana may want to give serious consideration to recommendations presented in the latest WHO Baseline Report.