Why is the idea of Healthy Ageing important?

 

By UniServices Business Development Manager Dr Anisoara Nicol

It was a pleasure to host the Ageing Well webinar earlier this month that brought together a group of expert speakers and an interested audience to look at some of the vast range of challenges and opportunities presented to us with an ageing population. If you missed it, you can watch the replay here.

Over the last 50 years, we can confidently say we are all living a little bit longer. Intergenerational families and communities are once more commonplace, and getting older doesn’t automatically relegate you to a rest home.  

However, with these longer lives there is still no guarantee of better health, and there is evidence of inequities in gender and ethnicity throughout. In New Zealand, people aged 65 and over make up 15% of the population (760000, Statistics NZ). The number of adults over 65 is projected to double in the next 20 years.

This shift in the demographic has the potential to increase the pressure on our already overburdened public health system. In addition, in a post-COVID world, inequalities in health and wellbeing are being severely exacerbated and older people are more likely to reach retirement without secure housing or sufficient savings and funds. As such the population is forced to work longer, past traditional ‘retirement’ age. 

This coming decade (2020-2030) has been highlighted by the WHO as the Decade of Healthy Ageing – an opportunity to move towards collaboratively improving the lives of older people and their communities.  We are faced with a range of challenges, but we are also in a position where there are unique opportunities to completely rethink the way we as a community live. 

Ageing will look very different, and we need to modify and upgrade everything from healthcare through to transport to ensure that we can keep up. As UniServices CEO Andy Shenk opened with at our webinar, it’s fair to say that we hope ageing will be a good experience – as defined by our physical, social and intellectual health. 

So, what are we doing about it? 

The University of Auckland is applying a cross-sector approach to seeing this bright future and creating solutions that help people, allowing them to be and do what they want and to embrace ageing as individuals and as a community. 

Through initiatives illustrated in the webinar such as the Eisdell Moore Centre’s Associate Professor Grant Searchfield’s work on hearing aids and their effects on reducing cognitive decline, and the UniServices and Auckland Bioengineering Institute’s Pelvic Floor Group spinout JunoFem which has taken their pelvic floor strengthening device to market, we are constantly looking for new and exciting opportunities to rethink ageing and what it can, or should, look like. In the Business School we have the Retirement Policy and Research Centre specialising in economic issues of demographic change, with their most recent working paper looking at Women and Retirement in a post-COVID-19 world.  

Jim Nicolson, Manager for Healthy Ageing Policy at the Ministry of Health has highlighted the need for an integrated approach which entrenches wellbeing considerations and makes equity a primary priority. 

At UniServices, we can’t wait to rise to this challenge. We work in close partnership with industry and government, both nationally and internationally, and in doing so look to meet the UNDP’s integrated Sustainable Development Goals with practical and creative solutions. 

If you have any ideas, or you would like fresh solutions for a bright future – come and see us! 

Get in touch with Dr Anisoara Nicol on: ani.nicol@auckland.ac.nz
 

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