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World Health Organisation Propose a Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020-2030

Following public consultation, the Decade of Healthy Ageing is proposed as a global collaboration led by WHO that will bring together governments, international organisations, health professionals, academic institutions, the media, the private sector and civil society. The collaboration focuses on three action areas that are intended to improve the lives of older people, their families and their communities:

a) develop age-friendly cities and communities that foster the abilities of older people;
b) deliver person-centred integrated care for older people at the level of the community to ensure that older people get the care they need as close as possible to where they live;
c) provide older people with access to long-term care at the community level so that every older person gets the care and support they need when they cannot take care of themselves.

According to WHO “Given that fostering Healthy Ageing requires fundamental shifts – not just in the actions we take, but in how we think and feel towards age and ageing – combatting ageism will be integral to the three action areas.“

Activities during the Decade of Healthy Ageing

The activities will:

• focus on the second half of life, given the unique issues that arise in older age, and the limited attention this period has received compared with that given to other age cohorts;
• take place at the local, national, regional and global levels, with a focus on improving the lives of older people, their families and their communities;
• be crafted in ways that overcome, rather than reinforce, inequities linked to individual factors; without doing so, policies and programmes would risk widening the gaps and leaving some older people behind;
• tackle the current challenges that older people face, while anticipating the future for those who will journey into older age.

The project aims to strengthen and expand on existing partnerships and alliances such as the WHO Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities, with a focus on four enablers across the three action areas of the Decade on Healthy Ageing. These are:

a) ensuring that the voices of older people are at the heart of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of actions;
b) nurturing leadership and building capacity at all levels to take appropriate action that is integrated across sectors;
c) connecting diverse stakeholders around the world to share and learn from the experience of others;
d) catalysing research and innovation to identify successful interventions.

Underpinning this work will be an accountability framework to measure progress towards political commitments. A shared understanding of what success will look like will be developed through a process of multistakeholder, collective dialogue and co-creation.

A system wide rethink

Promoting multistakeholder engagement, collective dialogue and co-creation are consistent with the work AAA has been conducting since leading the Neighbourhoods of the Future outreach programme for the European Commission in 2016.

For 12 months we travelled the Continent engaging with governments, health professionals, academic institutions, not for profits, NGO's, SMEs and tech giants. By way of example, in this short video Innovation Leads at Microsoft, IBM and Intel discuss the benefit of collaborating and the potential market opportunity.

Our findings were published in a white paper BETTER HOMES FOR OLDER ADULTS – IMPROVING HEALTH, CARE, DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY. Commissioned by McCarthy & Stone, the UK's leading retirement builder, the report highlighted the potential of high speed broadband and the Internet of Things, to transform housing from inanimate shells to customisable cognitive homes, which will allow people to remain independent for longer and break down some of the problems relating to isolation.

In the introduction I wrote: “People are living longer and social and care services are not sustainable, we have to disrupt the whole system”. In truth, we were probably a couple of years ahead of the curve.

While progress has been slow but steady, I am optimistic that the WHO Decade of Healthy Ageing, together with national initiatives like the UK’s Ageing Society Industrial Strategy Challenge, and the EU’s ongoing commitment to kick-starting the Silver Economy, could prove to be the tipping point that could trigger a system wide rethink.

There are other encouraging signs that market forces are starting to drive change. Modern Methods of Construction should speed up the development of smart(er) age-friendly adaptable homes for life.

The take up of ambient computing systems like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, together with connected home applications and wearables, will dovetail with the NHS' embracing potentially game changing non-invasive digital health solutions, which should free up doctor’s surgeries, clinics and eventually hospital beds.

Then there are the big tech enablers, which are just starting to infiltrate the mainstream, including AI, Machine Learning and 5G. Together these trends could provide the spark to ignite a perfect age-friendly storm.

Linking this back to WHO’s Decade of Healthy Ageing, it makes sense to seek out best practice across the world, share knowledge and ensure that this revolution benefits the have not’s as well as the haves.

With upcoming trips to China and Singapore I am really looking forward to playing my part in this exciting voyage of discovery. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, here is a quick look at AAA events in the 2019 pipeline:

Empowering people to choose how they live as they age

In the United States a partnership between AARP and WHO aims to promote the WHO Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.

Karen Kafantaris, associate state director of Livable Communities for AARP Michigan, is soliciting interest in the project by talking to state ageing organizations, planning associations, health and services providers, the governor’s office, foundations, local officials and other stakeholders.

“Ensuring an age-friendly community makes good sense,” she says. “Older adults have money to spend; why not encourage them to spend it locally? Older adults have a wealth of experience; why not encourage them to share it with their neighbours? Older adults love their communities; why not encourage them to stay?” So far, Karen reports, that rationale is generating tremendous interest and opportunity.

Last month I wrote about the AARP meeting on the future of age-friendly housing and multigenerational communities in Washington DC. For those of you not familiar with the organisation, AARP is a major US non-profit whose stated mission is "to empower people to choose how they live as they age”. With over 38 million members and revenue in excess of 1.6 billion USD, AARP is currently working on creating a long-range strategy aimed at bolstering the age-friendly housing supply, boosting consumer demand for multigenerational communities, and advancing enabling policies across the States and beyond.

To this end, AAA is now working with AARP and the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) to organise a ‘Leaders Forum’ involving American and European decision makers and thought leaders, which will be staged in London in December.

Our objective is to work towards systemic change through addressing key pain points and opportunities, and developing a set of principles that participants can use to promote their individual company/organizational strategies in this space. Ultimately the intent is to embolden and support visionary champions in advancing the implementation of these principles—within their respective countries, communities and socioeconomic sectors.

Let's build communities

Multigenerational housing is a growing trend, but good examples are still few and far between, which is regrettable as the benefits of clustering diverse ages, experiences and ideas together are rich and tangible. Moving away from physical segregation between young and old not only offers numerous societal opportunities it could also nip ageism in the bud; another WHO imperative.

My recent article on multigenerational neighbourhoods generated significant feedback. I particularly like this comment from Rose Gilroy, Professor of Ageing, Planning and Policy at Newcastle University who said, “Let's get away from these life limiting age segregated models and develop housing that meets people's changing physical and social needs. Let's build communities.”

Purpose-designed, agefriendly neighbourhoods can serve the wider community. People of all ages need healthcare and leisure facilities, and with a growing demand to reinvent the high street, there’s a huge opportunity to get creative with real estate.

That said, if the upside is so compelling, why are UK developers and local authorities not jumping on the bandwagon? One of the primary obstacles, as ever, is cost. There is a perception that agefriendly housing is expensive and spending decisions are generally taken with an over-emphasis on the short term, instead of considering the broader picture.

Prevention: Investing for the future

Now for some good news. If the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Public Health England have their way, things are about to change in the UK. According to CIPFA CEO Rob Whiteman –as reported by PSE- “Our ambition is to change the way prevention is thought about – as a true investment, yielding benefits across place and time – rather than just a way to generate savings.

Such a standardised approach would allow organisations across the public sector to compare strategies and share what works. This would also improve transparency and allow for clear communication with citizens to increase engagement with preventative initiatives, and improve understanding of how and where the public pound is spent. 

Our approach takes a holistic view, encouraging an emphasis on sustainability and long-term thinking, and allows for a place-based consideration of investments. Although it will take time to change attitudes to preventative investment, our framework aims to take a step in the right direction and start a cross-sector conversation.”

Cross-sector, multinational collaboration

With a view to addressing WHO’s Decade on Healthy Ageing agenda and UKRI’s Healthy Ageing ISCF Challenge, AAA is co-creating a stakeholder’s workshop October 15th, at Coventry University, where we will Reimagine our Neighbourhoods of the Future with Tata Steel and other industrial partners. Coventry, a WHO Age-friendly City will also be the UK City of Culture in 2021. We still have some space available for this workshop, so if you are interested in contributing, feel free to write to info@agileageing.org and let us know what added value you can offer.

Next month I will report on the Coventry workshop and a trip to China. I have been invited by the Beijing Research Center of Urban System Engineering to visit ageing Institutions and discussing how to improve integrated community health promotion services for older adults.

Never a dull moment at the Agile Ageing Alliance.

Until next time,
#Stay Agile

If you are not already on board, join AAA on LinkedInwww.agileageing.org @ianspero

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