Tag Archives: aging around the world

Wine Around the World 2016: Oregon, USA

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on issues of aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on October 6, 2016. This event is sold out. If you would like to be on our invite list for next year and hear about our other events, you can subscribe here at COA News.

OREGON LEADS THE WAY

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by Patti Digh

Oregon has long been known as an innovator in community-based care options for older people who need ongoing assistance with daily activities. The state was the first to receive a federal waiver to provide home and community-based services for adults with low incomes who would otherwise require nursing home placement. Assisted living facilities, now common across the U.S., began in Oregon. In 2009, AARP ranked Oregon first in use of home and community-based services for older persons and adults with disabilities and next to last in use of nursing facilities. Other states and countries have studied Oregon’s assisted living, home care, and adult foster care programs.

“Toward an Age-Friendly Portland” is a Portland State University Planning Workshop Project whose aim is to create an “Age-Friendly Action Plan” for the City of Portland. Planning for age friendliness is a collaborative partnership among the people of Portland, City bureaus, Multnomah County, Metro, and many non-profit organizations and those efforts are directed at creating choices and opportunities for older adults to live healthy, vibrant, happy lives.

In the coming decades, Portland (and Oregon as a whole) will see a substantial increase in the population of older adults both in size and as a percentage of the population. Properly supported, this generational shift can result in a more resilient Portland with stronger neighborhoods where people can grow up and grow old.

Many of Portland’s efforts to improve livability for its older citizens have made, and are likely to continue to make, Portland friendlier to people of all ages. The City’s approach to increasing quality of life, including the Portland Plan’s “healthy, connected neighborhoods” concept, generally supports a high quality of life for older adults. Walkable, bikeable, mixed-use places that feature parks and social gathering spaces, located near convenient, accessible transit improves the ability of older adults to access the goods, services, and social and recreational opportunities they desire for a healthy and satisfying life.

Portland is focused on improving the quality of life for older adults and people of all ages by focusing on three things: Age-Friendly Neighborhoods, Age-Friendly Housing Options, and An Age-Friendly Transportation System.

The vision of this Age-Friendly Portland project is compelling: “In an age-friendly Portland, the lives of older adults abound with choice and opportunity. Portlanders will embrace the transition into late adulthood. Since growing older is not associated with a diminished quality of life, older adults expect to enjoy active and satisfying lives throughout their golden years. Elders look forward to encore careers, fulfilling volunteer opportunities, pursuing their favorite activities, and new adventures. Older adults maintain their autonomy, health, security, and social connections. In an Age-Friendly Portland, intergenerational connections bolster interdependent vivacity across the age spectrum. A network of healthy, connected, and complete neighborhoods will intentionally cater to the needs of older adults. Vibrant, walkable neighborhoods cultivate an effortless sense of community amongst people of all ages. The everyday lives of all people will overlap through expanded and inclusive social networks.

Barriers to intergenerational interactions have been removed, and the isolation of older adults is a memory of the past. Easy access to social gathering spaces like parks, neighborhood plazas, community centers, restaurants, and cafes enable Portlanders to stay active, healthy, and involved as they age. A range of social, educational, and recreational activities fuel friendships, curiosity, and resilience among seniors. Diverse and inclusive neighborhoods support safety and security throughout the city. Older adults will thrive in affordable, attractive, well-constructed homes of their choice. A diverse range of housing types and arrangements provide the opportunity for elders of all incomes to age in place or age in community. Flexible, adaptable dwellings facilitate new possibilities.

Older Portlanders also have the option to move into housing that better suits their needs at different stages of aging, whether that is a smaller home that requires less maintenance, an apartment close to family, or a familiar home environment shared with peers that offers living and nursing assistance. A well-balanced transportation system will enable older adults to safely and conveniently access the things they need. Older adults feel comfortable moving about the city no matter how they choose to travel. A walkable and rollable network of smooth, barrier-free sidewalks, walking paths, and functional crosswalks benefit all users, including those using mobility aids. Off-street trails, neighborhood greenways, and protected on-street bikeways provide a pleasant, low-stress bicycling and strolling experience.”

It’s an inspiring vision for the future. Let’s learn from Oregon and work to create an age-friendly country!

Wine Around the World 2016: Italy

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on issues of aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on October 6, 2016. There are a limited number of tickets left. Don’t miss this unforgettable event! Purchase online or stop by our office at 105 King Creek Blvd, Hendersonville, NC.

ITALY IS THE OLDEST COUNTRY IN EUROPE

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by Patti Digh

Italy is second only to Japan in its proportion of seniors in the general population, so the country is having to cope with growing demands for long-term care while managing issues related to the health, social exclusion, poverty, and technological needs of the aging population. In fact, Italy has the largest proportion of elderly population in Europe. Italy’s Genoa is the oldest city in Europe, with 33% of the population being over 60.

Similar to most European countries, this is linked to the fertility fluctuation that occurred during the second half of the 20th century: the baby boom cohort (born between 1945 and 1964) is progressively reaching the old age, and it will continue up to the 2030s, whereas the baby bust cohort (born between the early 1960s and 1975) now constitutes the bulk of the working age population. This circumstance will lead to a top-heavy age structure, and is expected to last about 30 years, after which the end of the baby bust generation will enter old age.

To accommodate the needs of this aging population, two systems have evolved: formal care provision, which provides in-kind home and residential services and cash-for-care financing to informal caregivers. The second is the informal network comprised of family, volunteers, friends, and neighbors. This second system is possible in part because so few women between the ages of 55-64 are in the formal workforce.

In Italy’s cash-for-care scheme, a dependent person receives a care allowance from the state and, in many municipalities, this is supplemented with a means tested additional 300-500 euros per month for those over the age of 65. This has encouraged hiring private help to assist with activities of daily living.

A large number of those hired are immigrants employed to supplement the family’s support or cohabitate with the client. The wage differential and reduced costs of living for resident home care workers also provides economic incentives for immigrants. However, this quasi-underground system raises several concerns. First is the inability to maintain standards of care, particularly when the workforce lacks accreditation. Second is the concern that families or senior clients may exploit immigrant home care workers. Third, these workers often work in isolation from their families and communities for prolonged periods of times, which raises concerns for their mental health.

To accommodate this migrant workforce, Italy has undertaken a series of legal and policy reforms to formalize the system. Illegal migrants now have the means to gain legitimate workers’ status. Fiscal incentives have been introduced to discourage households from employing undeclared workers. Starting in 2007, domestic workers now sign contracts to reduce the potential for employer abuse. Finally, training and accreditation programs for migrant workers have been developed by local municipalities to raise the workforce’s skillset. At the same time, stricter controls for access to cash-for-care allowances for seniors are now in place.

A recent survey found that high proportions of adults in Italy (70 percent) help their aging parents with basic tasks, such as running errands, housework or home repairs, compared with people in the United States (58 percent). But Americans were more likely to offer financial support to aging parents: 28 percent of U.S. adult children have given financial support to a parent who is 65 or older, compared with 20 percent in Italy. Italians were also much more likely to provide hands-on care. In Italy, 26 percent reported providing personal care, compared with 14 percent in the United States.
The study also found that in both the U.S and Italy, people said they were more likely to have helped an adult child financially in the preceding 12 months than an aging parent. In the United States, 61 percent of people with at least one adult child said they helped with financial support, compared with 60 percent in Italy. Among its other findings, the survey says that people in both Italy and the U.S. who are 65 or older preferred to grow older in their homes, a concept known as aging in place.

Wine Around the World 2016: South Africa

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on issues of aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on October 6, 2016. There are a limited number of tickets left. Don’t miss this unforgettable event! Purchase online or stop by our office at 105 King Creek Blvd, Hendersonville, NC.

SOUTH AFRICA’S ELDERLY POPULATION TO DOUBLE BY 2050

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by Patti Digh

South Africa’s elderly population is projected to double by 2050, according to a report released recently. Presently, the number of South Africans 60 years or older is around 4.209 million people. In 2050, this figure will rise to 10.06 million people. In the whole of the African continent, by 2050, the number of people over 60 will increase from just under 50 million to just under 200 million.

More than half of elderly people in South Africa live in extended households, but that’s changing with an upward trend in the prevalence of elderly single-member households (a huge increase from 16.3% in 1996 to 26.7% in 2011) and urbanization.

In fact, South Africa has a number of unique circumstances that affect the structure and situation of families. They include its history of apartheid, and particularly the migrant labor system. Poverty also greatly affects family life, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic has profoundly affected the health and well-being of family members, consequently placing an added burden on children and the elderly.

In South Africa in 2008, there were 859,000 “double orphans” (children both of whose parents have died), 2,468,000 paternal orphans, and 624,000 maternal orphans. A total of 3.95 million children had lost one or both parents by 2008, an increase of about a third since 2002. The number of double orphans increased by 144%. Although the HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa has stabilised, and the infection rate is now starting to decline, the number of orphans will continue to grow or at least remain high for years, reflecting a time lag between HIV infection and death.

What does this have to do with aging? The contribution of the elderly is especially important in countries with a high HIV/AIDS prevalence, such as South Africa, where many older people head what are called skip-generation households because the middle generation has died or become very sick from HIV/AIDS. Around 30 percent of older women in Sub-Saharan Africa head skip-generation households, according to the WHO. In some countries, the figures are even higher. In African countries outside South Africa, this is also true: more than four out of ten orphans are cared for by their grandmothers in Tanzania, and in Zimbabwe it is around six in ten.

In rural KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, the country in the region with both the highest proportion of old people and one of the severest AIDS epidemics. almost one in three older people are either now caring for sick adults living in the household or are raising grandchildren whose own parents are either dead or away in the cities on a long-term basis, seeking work.

One project in KwaZulu-Natal works with over 25,000 older people who are nursing their infected children and raise their grandchildren. Through information and training they learn about infection risks and the best care. They are enabled to help other affected people and overcome their own isolation. The elderly people are also supported materially: They receive sufficient food supplies, clothing and items that they need to take care of their sick relatives. The grandchildren get books, school uniforms, and other items the need for their education.

Another project supports these silent heroes: “Kwa Wazee” grants pensions to 1,000 grandmothers with 600 grandchildren. The project also advocates the formation of discussion groups that enable old people to help one another psychosocially and financially. The pensions increase the quality of life for elderly women and their grandchildren immensely, enabling them to buy food, clothes and other needed items. The nutritional situation stabilizes, the children can go to school again, and the grandmothers develop a greater feeling of self-esteem. The project also contributes to a national debate about improved old age security.

 

Wine Around the World 2016: Uruguay

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on issues of aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on October 6, 2016. There are a limited number of tickets left. Don’t miss this unforgettable event! Purchase online or stop by our office at 105 King Creek Blvd, Hendersonville, NC.

URUGUAY PROVIDES A MODEL FOR ELDER CARE

waw-uruguayby Patti Digh

With the largest proportion of people 60 years and older, Uruguay represents the “oldest” nation in Latin America — indeed, in the entire Western Hemisphere. As with other Latin American and Caribbean countries, declines in infant mortality have helped spur increases in life expectancy in Uruguay.

Uruguay is also one of South America’s wealthiest and urban nations. In Uruguay, a girl can now expect to live to 78 years — some 27 years longer that her Haitian counterpart. In Haiti, still a largely rural society, 103 infants die for every 1,000 births — seven times the rate of Uruguay.

Decreasing birth rates have also influenced the growth in the proportion of older people in Uruguay. Their drop in birth rates reflects — among other things — relatively high achievements in education. Adult literacy is high, with 98 percent of female Uruguayans 15 years and older being literate, compared with 97 percent of males.

In recent years, Uruguay has established around 150 “grandparents clubs,” state-sponsored recreational centers for the elderly. The centers are part of an array of services that has made Uruguay, the “grayest” country in Latin America, an international model for treatment of senior citizens.

For about $2 a month, club members, some well into their 90s, enjoy all the yoga, aerobics and dance classes they want. Medical care is a few steps away at a well-stocked clinic. And, like all Uruguayan retirees, if they want a change of scenery, they can take a state-subsidized vacation at a dude ranch or beach resort.

In Uruguay, there are about as many retirees – 700,000 – as there are children in grade school. What could have been a social disaster has become a source of national pride. Uruguay has become internationally recognized for its treatment of the elderly. Even the Japanese have come to study programs considered more advanced than those in many wealthier First World nations.

Besides financial assistance to the grandparents clubs and subsidized vacations at two government-owned resorts, the state provides psychological therapy to help citizens adjust to retirement. Grants are offered to more than 400 retirement homes scattered around the nation, slightly larger in size than New York state. The poorest receive housing and low-cost access to private health care.

The Uruguayan Congress is preparing to debate a new bill of rights for the elderly to extend benefits further. Already, the state mandates that sons or daughters care for their aging parents or provide for them financially.

The kindness, however, has a cost. Almost half the taxes – which are higher than those in most of Latin America – go for pensions and social services for senior citizens. Sales taxes alone top 23 percent.

But it isn’t merely the state that embraces the old – it’s society.

“For us, it’s cultural,” said Elbio Mendez Areco, general director of Uruguay’s Labor and Social Welfare Ministry. “We go beyond the Latin tradition of family closeness. For us, it is a social crime not to give the elderly the attention they deserve.”

The government has launched “age sensitivity” classes for children this year, reinforcing the message that the elderly are to be revered and cared for. In other state-sponsored classes, the two generations do arts and crafts and sing songs. The program, less than a year old, is so successful that some children sent homemade cards to their new “adopted family” on Uruguay’s Grandparents Day.

Wine Around the World 2016: Chile

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on issues of aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on October 6, 2016. There are a limited number of tickets left. Don’t miss this unforgettable event! Purchase online or stop by our office at 105 King Creek Blvd, Hendersonville, NC.

Aging isn’t just a biological process; it is also a cultural one. Frequently the average life expectancy bears on what age counts as “old.” For example, in the United States, where the average life expectancy is over 78 years, people are not considered “old” until they are in their sixties or seventies. However, in Chad the average life expectancy is less than 49 years. People in their thirties or forties are therefore already middle­ aged or “old.”

Over the next two weeks, leading up to our Wine Around the World event at The Cedars, let’s grab our passports and go on this amazing journey into aging in many cultures.

CHILE’S RAPID DEVELOPMENT AND ITS IMPACT ON AGINGchile

by Patti Digh

Chile is a developing country with a rapidly expanding economy. In fact, it is expected to become a “developed country” within 10 years, one of the first in Latin America to obtain that designation. This rapid economic growth has brought significant changes in social organization. For example, an increasing number of older adults are now living alone versus in an extended family, and Chile has one of the largest proportions of older adults in Latin America.

In fact, the number of elderly in Latin America will triple as a share of the population by 2050. By 2050, there will be one Latin American elder for every child. The result will be a dramatic slowdown in population growth and an equally dramatic aging of the population. Latin America’s median age will climb by 14 years, from 26 to 40.

This coming age wave poses two fundamental challenges for Latin America. The first is to create national retirement systems capable of providing an adequate level of support for the old without imposing a crushing burden on the young. The second is to boost living standards while populations are still young and growing. While the United States, Europe, and Japan all became affluent societies before they became aging societies, Latin America may grow old before it grows rich.

In particular, Chile is in what is referred to as an advanced demographic transition stage. The population over 60 years of age represents 13% of the total population. It’s anticipated that the aging population in Chile will continue to increase to represent 20.8% of the population by 2044. Thus, in the near future, Chile will experience “super-aging.”

And because of the gender gap in life expectancy in Chile, more women will be living alone, a new phenomenon in Chile, and may experience increasing isolation. Additionally, more women may face reduced economic status in their later years as most did not participate in the labor force and were dependent upon their husband’s salaries and pensions.

It’s important to note that life expectancy in Chile also varies by geographic location and is up to 10 years less among certain indigenous populations there (e.g., Aymara), attesting to pockets of underdevelopment and poverty particularly among Indigenous populations and in rural areas.

To promote healthy aging, the government of Chile has been providing a nutritional supplement to older adults since 1998, distributing micronutrient fortified foods to adults 70 years or over who are registered for the program through their Primary Health Centers.

In 2002, a national effort to focus on health issues related to aging was initiated in Chile, focused on improving living conditions and health programs specific to the needs of older adults, developing and implementing elder abuse laws, and enhancing access to public spaces so that older adults can participate in tourism or use public transportation at reduced rates. The importance of specialized health care for the elderly such as comprehensive geriatric assessments is becoming an increasing focus of attention, as the prevalence of risk of falls and chronic diseases increases.

Access to participation in meaningful activities can be challenging for older adults in Chile. In Santiago, the city is divided into provinces with each responsible for organizing events for older adults. Provinces with more resources offer enhanced activities including travel opportunities, free exercise facilities, and opportunities for social engagement. A rising concern, however, is the lack of meaningful opportunities to remain socially and economically integrated as one enters old age in Chile. Not surprisingly, there has been a rise of mental health issues and in particular, depression. In Chile, it has been reported that clinical depression in older adults has reached 47%, which is a much higher percentage compared to estimate of 16% and 19% for adolescents and young adults.

To answer these needs, Chile has developed “The Integral Policy for Positive Aging” with three general objectives: protect the functional health of older people, improve their integration into the different areas of society, and increase their levels of subjective well-being.

Aging Around the World: Germany

by Patti Digh, Council on Aging for Henderson County Board Member

Are Nursing Homes Inevitable?

In most of the developed world, birth rates have been falling. Population decline results in economic and social strains and can even threaten national security. Germany is a particularly severe example of this trend. Germany has had an extremely low birth rate for decades. Its resident population is in absolute decline; its family policies have failed to restore birth rates to a replacement level. Now what?

Aging in Place in Germany

WAW-germany-blogpostApproximately every fourth person in Germany is over 60 years old. Because of low birth rates and increasing life expectancy, German society has the third ­largest proportion of elderly people worldwide after Japan and Italy.

The vast majority of elderly people in Germany lead independent lives, are socially active, in contact with their children and relatives, and for the most part are in a position to determine their own lives and actively decide how to make use of their time.

Financially speaking the elder generation is for the most part taken care of: The 1957 pension reform gradually gave pensioners a full share in the nation’s wealth. Poverty in old age has not been done away with entirely, but the risk of being poor in old age is lower than that of other age groups.

A Federal project seeks to strengthen and secure cross-generational ties. Almost every district and each municipality in Germany now boasts a multi­generational house. The 500 subsidized buildings, to which 15,000 people are committed nationwide, form a point of contact, network and hub for family advice, health support, crisis intervention and care planning.

People of all ages live in these buildings together.

“We haven’t built a nursing home in 10 years and we don’t plan on building any,” says Alexander Künzel, chief executive of the Bremer Heimstiftung, a foundation providing long­term care services. Instead, the foundation offers multigenerational residential buildings where seniors can rent one of 85 apartments with round-­the-­clock assistance and a nursery school next door.

This can be summarized in just a few words: As part of a growing trend in Germany, what really matters is that elderly citizens stay out of institutionalized care.

This is a strongly held belief at the Council on Aging for Henderson County. With the help of so many other agencies in our community, we provide and coordinate services to help our clients live independently for as long as possible.

Aging Around the World: Italy

by Patti Digh, Council on Aging for Henderson County Board Member

In this series, we are exploring the norms around aging in each of the countries that will be represented at our Wine Around the World event on October 22, 2015. There are only a handful of tickets left, but they’re going fast. Tickets can be purchased at our office or online here: coa.eventbrite.

GLOBAL ELDERS

“Using their collective experience, their moral courage and their ability to rise above the parochial concerns of nation, race and creed, they can help make our planet a more peaceful, healthy and equitable place to live. Let us call them Global Elders, not because of their age, but because of their individual and collective wisdom. We call this the spirit of Ubuntu – that profound African sense that we are human only through the humanity of other human beings.”
– Nelson Mandela, Founder, The Elders

What if we didn’t have a “needs­-based” perspective of aging, but a “resource­-based” view of it instead? What if society more often celebrated the achievements of the elderly and applauded them for their unique accomplishments than they decried the “costs” of an aging population? At 99, Miczyslaw Horszowski, a classical pianist, recorded a new album; at 91, Hilda Crooks climbed Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the United States; and at 91, Lucille Borgen won the National Water Ski title. These elderly may be labeled as “over achievers;” however, they are examples of Active Aging – people who are successful, positive, and experiencing a high quality of life in their aging years. Aging is not a disease, or a problem; rather, it is an inevitability, and a privilege, given how many around us die far too young.

ACTIVE AGING IN ITALY

WAW-Italy-blogpostThe major backbones supporting activity in the elderly must be reinforced by the culture of that society, and the policies and the political support as witnessed in societies with a large aging population, such as Italy. Italy’s elderly population continues to be productive and active as its country’s policies and environmental infrastructure fosters and “supports at the individual level the variability, plasticity, and modifiability of the elderly.”

This approach is obviously not taken in many other Western nations and, interestingly, in Italy “Active Aging” is considered to start in childhood, encompassing everyone in society. For the Italians, addressed when a person gets to be sixty­-four, but must be considered when they are in their twenties and thirties, since their activities at that point will likely mirror their involvement in those same activities when they are in their sixties. Successful aging in Italy is a multidisciplinary, multigenerational collaboration.

Italy has one of the longest life expectancy rates in the world, about 84.5 years, with 20.8% of its population, aged 65 and over. It is vital, then, that this country do what it can to keep the elderly healthy and contributing to society.

The World Health Organization Aging and Life Course Programme has defined “Active Aging” as “the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age.”  “Active Aging” is not only keeping Italy’s elderly populations fit, but also supporting and nurturing an environment that empowers an aging individual with educational and volunteering opportunities to remain an active member of society.

How does the Council on Aging for Henderson County reflect the value Italy places on “Active Aging”? By providing members of “Lunch at the Sammy” (our congregate nutrition program at the Sammy Williams Center) with weekly yoga and balance classes, we provide options for healthy & active aging.

Aging Around the World: Spain

by Patti Digh, Council on Aging for Henderson County Board Member

In this series, we are exploring the norms around aging in each of the countries that will be represented at our Wine Around the World event on October 22, 2015. There are only a handful of tickets left, but they’re going fast. Tickets can be purchased at our office or online here: coa.eventbrite.

SOCIAL WELL­BEING KEY TO HEALTHY

What if we are all wrong about the brains of older adults? Cognitive neuroscience, a subfield of psychology that incorporates methods from neuroscience, uses measures of brain activity to understand human thought. The emphasis is on how the brain shapes behavior.

Using cognitive neuroscience methods to study aging has unexpectedly revealed that aging brains remain somewhat malleable and plastic. Plasticity refers to the ability to flexibly recruit different areas of the brain to do different jobs.

In contrast to the earlier, largely pessimistic view of aging, neuro­ imaging studies suggest aging brains can reorganize and change, and not necessarily for the worse. Social and emotional abilities are relatively well ­preserved with age, it seems, suggesting that brain regions underlying these abilities may not exhibit the same downward trajectory with age as those associated with cognitive abilities. These brain areas may show different patterns of reorganization and change.

AGING IN SPAIN

WAW-Spain-blogpostAs it emerges from tough economic times, Spain must confront the challenge of adequately managing the health and well-being of its older citizens in the face of rising medical costs, limited economic growth and changing social and family dynamics.

Along with other countries in Europe, Spain’s population is graying after decades of falling birth rates. Nearly one ­quarter (24%) of Spain’s population was 60 or older in 2013, a percentage that is expected to rise to four in 10 (40%) by 2050.

Purpose Well­Being

  • You like what you do every day
  • You learn or do something interesting every day

Social Well­Being

  • Someone in your life always encourages you to be healthy
  • Your friends and family give you positive energy every day

Financial Well­Being

  • You have enough money to do everything you want to do
  • In the last seven days, you haven’t worried about money

Community Well­Being

  • The city or area where you live is a perfect place for you.
  • In the last 12 months, you have received recognition for helping to improve the city or area where you live.

Physical Well­Being

  • In the last seven days, you have felt active and productive every day
  • Your physical health is near ­perfect

Social well­being appears to be the key to improving health outcomes for older people in Spain, based on findings from the Gallup­ Healthways Global Well­Being Index. For example, Spaniards who are thriving in social well­being are 45% more likely to evaluate their overall lives highly. These effects extend to physical well­being ­­ those who are thriving in social well­being are more than twice as likely to be thriving in physical well­being as those who are not.

Individuals who are not thriving in social well­being, on the other hand, are 30% more likely to say that they experienced stress yesterday.

How is Spain hoping to increase social well-being among older Spaniards?

  • Local and community outreach programs designed to promote health and prevent illness, such as a diabetes care program
  • Programs that emphasize regularly checking in on and interacting with elderly residents and ensuring their wellbeing needs are met
  • Meal delivery or preparation assistance to ensure proper nutritional intake among older Spaniards
  • Help with managing tasks such as home maintenance, cleaning and shopping
  • Improvements in information, transparency, monitoring and evaluation of services
  • Alternatives to traditional hospitalization such as home care for less acute conditions
  • Strategies to reduce inequalities in healthcare, including outreach to poorer communities and populations who are less likely to receive care

How is the work of the Council on Aging for Henderson County in alignment with this framework of improving social well­being in the aging? Through our “Lunch at the Sammy” program, we provide a place for the older adults of Henderson County to socialize and grow a community. Our Meals on Wheels volunteers, don’t just deliver a meal. Our volunteers are a friendly face at the door, 5 days a week, our clients can count on.

Aging Around the World: France

by Patti Digh, Council on Aging for Henderson County Board Member

In this series, we are exploring the norms around aging in each of the countries that will be represented at our Wine Around the World event on October 22, 2015. There are tickets left, but they’re going fast. Tickets can be purchased at our office or online here: coa.eventbrite.

Old Age is Relative

Frequently, the average life expectancy in a given region determines what age counts as “old.”

For example, in the United States, where the average life expectancy is over 78 years, people are not considered “old” until they are in their sixties or seventies.

However, in Chad the average life expectancy is less than 49 years. People in their thirties or forties are therefore already middle-aged or “old.”

These variations in people’s perceptions of who is considered elderly indicates that notions of youth and age are culturally constructed. There is thus no such thing as a universal age for being considered old. This concept of “old” is also influenced by cultural norms and stereotypes of “old” in various cultures.

Let’s journey to France to see what “old” means there, and what “rights” the elderly have there.

Elder Rights in France

WAW-France-blogpostA new Elderly Rights Law passed in China wags a finger at adult children, warning them to “never neglect or snub elderly people” and mandating that they visit their elderly parents often, regardless of how far away they live. The law includes enforcement mechanisms, too: Offspring who fail to make such trips to mom and dad face potential punishment ranging from fines to jail time.

Western cultures tend to be youth-centric, emphasizing attributes like individualism and independence. This relates back to the Protestant work ethic, which ties an individual’s value to his or her ability to work — something that diminishes in old age. Anthropologist Jared Diamond, who has studied the treatment of the elderly across cultures, has said the geriatric in countries like the U.K. and U.S. live “lonely lives separated from their children and lifelong friends.” As their health deteriorates, the elderly in these cultures often move to retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes.

It’s difficult to imagine such an Elderly Rights Law being a legislative priority in many Western cultures. France did, however, pass a similar decree in 2004 (Article 207 of the Civil Code) requiring its citizens to keep in touch with their geriatric parents. It was only enacted following two disturbing events, though: One was the publication of statistics revealing France had the highest rate of pensioner suicides in Europe, and the other was the aftermath of a heat wave that killed 15,000 people — most of them elderly, and many of whom had been dead for weeks before they were found.

In France, the elderly receive a payment similar to Social Security, which increases according to the recipient’s income and care needs. But these insurance programs only provide financial support, and do little, if anything, to address what the Chinese call the “spiritual needs” of the old. China’s law, therefore, was intended to exert moral pressure on sons and daughters to attend to their parents — seeing retired parents, that legislation makes clear, is your job.

What does the Council on Aging Henderson County do that reflects the values of France around aging? While the Council on Aging primarily focuses on providing tangible support for the elderly — with food programs like Meals on Wheels — contact through social workers and volunteers provides the social, human connection that’s equally important.

Aging Around the World: Australia

by Patti Digh, Council on Aging for Henderson County Board Member

In this series, we are exploring the norms around aging in each of the countries that will be represented at our Wine Around the World event on October 22, 2015. There are tickets left, but they’re going fast. Tickets can be purchased at our office or online here: coa.eventbrite.

REFRAMING WHAT IT MEANS TO GROW OLD

There is nothing inherently problematical about growing old. And yet in most nations, old age is increasingly understood in “social problem” terms. As we all must age and eventually die, any cultural belief system that cannot provide security, meaning, and self-esteem for those who reach the conclusion of life’s natural sequences will eventually have to change.

Such is the case in the United States, where the cultural values of youth, vitality, competitiveness, and self-sufficiency are decreasingly relevant for an ever-increasing proportion of the population. Being life’s culminating stage– and because endings (whether musical resolutions, joke punchlines, desserts, or funeral eulogies) have a way of shaping the meaning of wholes–the meaning we attribute to old age shapes the very meaning of the entire human life-cycle.

CHANGING “AGE-ISM” IN AUSTRALIA

WAW-australia-blogpostThe most recent Australian suicide statistics show that, out of the whole population, men aged 85 years and over have the highest suicide rates. While the attention these figures have garnered is a positive sign, this is hardly a new phenomenon.

Over 38 men in every 100,000 of that age group die by suicide, which is more than double the rate among men under 35. The rate is around seven times higher than in women of all ages.

With very few exceptions in Australia’s history, annual suicide rates have always peaked in older males.

This is a common theme worldwide. Most countries record their peak suicide rates in this group. So why has the problem of suicide in older males not been an issue of concern for the general public?

And why are these men committing suicide? Partially because our definitions of vitality (and perhaps manhood itself) leave them out, causing them to experience severe depression, loneliness, social isolation and lack of social support; physical health issues, such as pain and cancer; and loss of independence. And partially because of our own ageist attitudes, which cause us to believe that being depressed in old age is “normal,” when the opposite is actually true: clinical depression can (and often does) lessen with aging.

What does the Council on Aging for Henderson County do that works to counter the beliefs or stereotypes about aging that are prevalent in Australia and other Western cultures? The Council actively promotes the individual dignity and agency of the elderly, and in doing, aids in their belief in their own independence and social support.