Active and healthy ageing in the Nordic region
Our project is intended to promote active and healthy ageing and a positive view of senior citizens. The elderly should be afforded equal opportunities to enjoy good health and active participation in urban and community development and social life. Including the elderly in planning cities and communities will contribute to a resilient and socially sustainable society.
The project is divided into four parts:
- Age-friendly cities and communities in the Nordic region
- Adopting a heterogeneous and intersectional perspective and developing key performance indicators
- Combatting loneliness and social isolation
- Active and healthy ageing with the help of welfare technology
The different parts are described further down the page.
Background, purpose and objectives
Our work is in line with the World Health Organisation’s Decade of Healthy Ageing 2021 – 2030, which brings together various actors worldwide in order to improve the lives of the elderly. The European Commission has initiated a platform at the European level, European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP on AHA), the objective of which is to promote innovative solutions and digital transformation in the field. Our project is intended to disseminate good examples of how best to promote active and healthy ageing with the aid of welfare technology, thereby contributing to European goals. The project also contributes to the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Vision 2030. Its ambition is that by 2030, the Nordic region will be the most sustainable and integrated region in the world.
We develop new knowledge about the opportunities available to the elderly to actively participate in societal development and about their varying living conditions in the Nordic countries. We study background factors that may affect these aspects, such as civil status, sex, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, access to social services and whether one lives in an urban or rural region.
We also develop key performance indicators (KPIs) for monitoring active and healthy ageing. Our aim is to develop new metrics for the quantitative and qualitative measurement of active and healthy ageing and the development of welfare technology in the Nordics.
These surveys will be published in late 2021. We will also be arranging webinars about loneliness and social isolation and the development of age-friendly cities and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the project, we will use our communication channels to disseminate good examples of how Nordic countries are working to promote active, healthy ageing.
1. Age-friendly cities and communities in the Nordic region
The Nordic Welfare Centre coordinates a Nordic network for age-friendly cities and municipalities. The following cities are a part of our network: Oslo, Trondheim, Esbjerg, Gothenburg, Uppsala, Halstahammar, Stockholm, Gävle, Östersund, Tampere, Turku and Reykjavik.
The WHO’s Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities was established to promote the exchange of experiences and mutual learning between cities and communities throughout the world. The network’s members work to promote healthy and active aging in eight areas highlighted by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The development of age-friendly cities and communities takes place in close cross-sectoral cooperation between various municipal departments and other stakeholders in the community. The inclusion of elderly people in this planning is essential to its success.
2. Adopting a heterogeneous and intersectional perspective and developing key performance indicators
According to our report Att åldras i Norden (Aging in the Nordics), the elderly are often described as a homogeneous group with common problems and needs. It is however necessary to differentiate between younger and older senior citizens, given that the needs of the over 70s, over 80s and over 90s vary significantly and there are also large individual variations within these age groups. It is important to study what opportunities are available to the elderly to participate actively in urban and community development and in social contexts against various background factors. A diversity perspective also contributes to countering ageism and promoting a positive view of elderly people as valuable resources for society.
An intersectional perspective implies looking at the individual from various perspectives and highlighting factors such as the social power dynamics that affect their ability to actively participate in social development on equal terms.
The Nordic countries have also expressed a need for KPIs and measurement instruments that promote and capture various aspects of active, healthy ageing. KPIs facilitate direct comparisons between the work being performed in different Nordic countries, as well as at national, regional and local levels in each country. The development of KPIs for welfare technology is considered especially challenging.
3. Combatting loneliness and social isolation
The Nordic Welfare Centre coordinates a Nordic expert group on loneliness and social isolation. The members of the expert group can be found in the column on the right-hand side.
The experience of loneliness is subjective. Loneliness can be voluntary or involuntary. We can experience intense loneliness even though we have many social contacts and relationships. Some people may have few social contacts but still not feel lonely. Social isolation is a more objective measure of the number of social contacts one has.
Involuntary loneliness can affect all groups, including the young and the elderly. Research shows that involuntary loneliness is just as harmful to health as smoking. The risk of stroke, dementia and mental illness increases. For that reason, efforts to combat loneliness and social isolation are a key public health priority.
- Welfare Technology Can Tackle the Dangers of Loneliness
- Webinar: Combating loneliness and social isolation for the older adults (5 November 2020)
4. Active and healthy ageing with the help of welfare technology
Society is highly digitised. Welfare technology can be used for prevention and assistance, as well as to delivery welfare solutions for various groups. The digital technology is used to maintain or increase security, promoting social inclusion, participation and independence among the elderly. This technology can be used by the elderly person her/himself, by relatives, or by staff.
While technology is increasingly being used on the ground to support ageing, this does present the challenge of encouraging the elderly to use technical solutions, a challenge exacerbated by the fact that not all elderly people have access to the internet, computers and smartphones. Access to training about how to use technology, community activities, and social support can create a positive experience for the elderly. This not only encourages the use of technology, but also fosters social interaction between participants.
Read more about Nordic Welfare Centre’s work with welfare technology:
We are living longer and longer, and the proportion of elderly people in the Nordic region is on the rise. According to population projections, between 2020 and 2060 the proportion of people aged 65 and older in the Nordic region will increase from about 20 per cent to 26 per cent. The proportion of people aged 80 and older will rise from around four to eight percent. – Source: Nordregio/Nordic Statistic
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