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This year marks the beginning of the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing and a recent webinar heard how making progress means tackling people’s mindsets first.
Ageism is one of the main barriers to healthy ageing, a webinar heard last week.
This year marks the start of the UN and WHO Decade of Healthy Ageing which brings together policy makers, private sector actors, civil society and more to address the issues preventing people from ageing better – a crucial issue for those needing to work longer.
The webinar organised by the International Longevity Centre UK heard that health ageing begins with how we think and act about age and ageing.
Jane Barratt from the International Federation on Ageing said it was important to identify best practice, improve access to health services and ensure equal access. Prevention was vital, for instance, education, brain stimulation, exercise and reducing isolation were all important for dementia prevention.
James Appleby, President, Gerontological Society of America, said the Decade intersected with Covid-19 which disproportionately affects older people with underlying health issues and had given rise to outrageous examples of ageism. Health decisions need to be made based on science, he said, rather than age alone, given older people are not one homogeneous group. “Ageism undermines the progress we are making on healthy ageing,” he said. Age was not just about decline and death, he added.
Ken Bluestone, Head of Policy and Influencing, Age International, called for better data to address age-based discrimination.
Julie Byles from ILC Australia spoke about her research tracking cohorts of women since 1996, the oldest of whom are now in their 90s. The study aimed to understand how disease develops and how women manage their well being and build resilience. She said younger women now have some advantages over older women in that they have a higher life expectancy due to more education, fewer children, greater access to healthcare and other factors. However, they tended to be larger than older women, to smoke and drink more and to have more mental health issues.