Active and healthy ageing in the Nordic region
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.*
Our project aims to promote active and healthy ageing, thus ensuring that the elderly have the best possible opportunities for good health, participation and security in society.
The project is divided into four parts:
- Age-friendly cities and communities in the Nordic region
- Age-integrated meeting places and intergenerational housing environments
- 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 2020 – 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 aims to disseminate good examples of welfare technology and social innovations from the Nordic countries that target the elderly, and thus contribute to the 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.
Our Nordic report (in Swedsih), Att åldras i Norden, surveys each Nordic country’s national initiatives, visions and strategies for active and healthy ageing. The survey highlights how the Nordic countries work to develop age-integrated meeting places, intergenerational housing environments and various welfare technology solutions, among other efforts. One important theme has been to investigate how to combat loneliness and social isolation among the elderly. The publication also presents the key actors and how the work is followed up. The survey was published in November 2020.
- Att åldras i Norden – En kartläggning av strategier och initiativ för aktivt och hälsosamt åldrande i de nordiska länderna
On 5 November 2020 we arranged the webinar Combating loneliness and social isolation for the older adults, with a focus on Nordic research, interventions and good practices that yield positive results.
In the course of the project’s implementation, we will disseminate good examples of how the Nordic countries are working to promote active and healthy ageing via our communication channels.
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 and Reykjavik.
In 2020, we will arrange two network meetings for representatives of the Nordic network cities.
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 members of the network work to promote healthy and active ageing among the elderly.
The WHO has identified eight areas which an age-friendly city must address: outdoor environments and the built environment, housing, transportation, respect and social inclusion, social participation, civic participation and employment, communication and information, community support and health services.
The development of age-friendly cities and communities is not only a matter of health and social care. It also requires close cross-sectoral cooperation between different municipal administrations and between other social actors. The inclusion of elderly people in this planning is essential to its success. This development work also entails combating discrimination against elderly people.
Among other things, the development of age-friendly cities entails intelligent planning of green and outdoor areas, transport systems, health care facilities, schools and other public spaces, trade, meeting places for culture, sport and other activities that encourage social participation for all age groups.
These different areas and premises can be co-used and placed close together in a local community so that they are available and easily accessible to the elderly and other user groups. Universal design enables these various elements to be designed in a manner that ensures that they can be used by everyone to the greatest possible extent, without the need for adaptation or special design.
2. Age-integrated meeting places and intergenerational housing environments
The purpose of creating age-integrated meeting places is to ensure that children, young people, families and the elderly can easily meet in their everyday lives. People of different ages have a lot to offer each other in terms of different experiences and knowledge. To promote intergenerational meetings, there must be natural meeting places in the local community that are easily accessible to all.
Age-integrated meeting places can be located both indoors and outdoors. Indoor meeting places may include libraries, cafés, sport facilities and training facilities, activity and cultural centres, or other public places where people of various ages can meet to socialise and make new friends. Parks, squares, footpaths and other public green spaces in residential areas are examples of outdoor meeting places.
Investments in intergenerational housing solutions in which seniors, families and students live together in the same residential properties provide opportunities for intergenerational co-existence. Residents of various ages can socialise and help and support each other, which helps to make life less lonely and increases the likelihood that the elderly will stay healthy longer.
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.
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.
Loneliness and social isolation are related to each other, but it is important to distinguish between these two concepts. The concept of social isolation entails a lack of social contact with family, friends and other members of a social network. For some people, social isolation is a choice. But for others, it may be an involuntary affliction – the result of the loss of loved ones, health problems, or mental illness. Social isolation is a more objective measure of the number of social contacts one has.
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, activity, participation and independence among the elderly. Some examples of welfare technology include digital keys and safety alarms, medical reminders, and health robots, as well as supervision via camera and sensors for reminders. This technology can be used by the elderly person her/himself, by relatives, or by staff.
Increasingly, technology is used to support ‘ageing in place’, including through smart home technology, telemedicine and e-health. One of the challenges of this technology is to get the elderly to use it. Use may be influenced by an elderly person’s perception of the need for technology, the perceived consequences of using new tools, and her/his willingness to invest time and resources in its use. Access to training about how to use computers, tablets or smartphones and other technologies, 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:
*Source: Nordregio/Nordic Statistic
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