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Unlocking the potential

Posted: June 15, 2012

Simon Tucker wrote a forward to a Young Foundation (Great Britain) Report called “One Hundred Not Out: resilience and active ageing” where he outlined a compelling way to look at the challenges and opportunities presented by an aging population.  I thought it was so well written that I’d share it rather than paraphrase or comment: 

“Too often the tone of our discussions about the ageing population takes on an apocalyptic turn. This breeds social pessimism about human agency; as if we have created inexorably longer lives but are powerless to make the choices we need to if we are to reap the benefits. This in turn feeds ageism and deepens individual pessimism about our own future and those of our loved ones.

There are few changes as momentous and with such profound implications as those taking place in relation to ageing. This is not just about us living longer; the profile of our lives has changed and along with this our expectations. We have on average fewer children to care for and to care for us. Fewer people marry or stay together and for those who do, a lifelong partnership now increasingly means half a century or more. Many people are able to stay active for longer and the number of years between retirement and the end of our lives has increased.

Acknowledging the positive aspects of these changes is important if we are to shift perception of older people and ageing itself. Understanding some of the drivers behind these changes; the political choices that were made and the human ingenuity that got us here may make us better equipped to face the future.

The creation of a universal entitlement to health services, rapid advances in medicine and technology, new knowledge, social innovations and institutions; have all contributed to increasing life expectancy and our capacity for active older age. All will play a part in continuing these trends and will be critical in responding to their impact.

For, as Yvonne Roberts makes clear, the scale and nature of the challenge is huge if we are simply to meet the care needs of the long-term sick, let alone maximize people’s chances of being able to be active for longer. As Yvonne argues, success will depend on strategies that see active ageing – and older people – as assets rather than burdens, that focus on people as active contributors, not passive recipients. Our shared task is to redesign existing services and develop new approaches that unlock that potential.”

 

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