he United Nations has designated the years 2021-2030 as the Decade of Healthy Ageing. It calls on all aspects of society, including governments, civil society, universities, international organizations, the media and the private sector, to work together to make the world a better place for older people so that they can live a healthy and happy life.
Addressing ageism, creating age-friendly environments, integrated care and long-term care are the four action areas of the Decade of Healthy Aging. Improvements are expected in these areas by 2030. The goal for the decade is to improve the “functional capacity” of older people.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a benchmark report that will serve as a starting point for measuring performance in 2030. This benchmark study describes healthy aging in detail. It is a process of developing and maintaining “functional capacity”.
The report emphasizes that the most essential characteristic of a healthy life is functional capacity. If it improves, the life of the elderly will improve. It is essential to understand what functional capacity entails.
Functional capacity combines the intrinsic capacity of the individual, the environment in which a person lives and the way people interact with their environment. When it comes to his abilities, he has five areas; the first is the basic needs to live, that is to say food, clothing, housing and access to health services. The second is the independence of individuals to make decisions. The third is to be mobile to perform daily tasks and participate in activities. The fourth is social relationships and the fifth is contribution to society.
Intrinsic capacity refers to a person’s physical and mental capabilities. This includes physical movement, sensory capacity (vision, hearing, etc.), vitality, cognition, and psychological capacity. The third component, environment, relates to home, community and society. It includes key areas such as the natural environment, assistive devices, emotional support, attitudes and services and policies aimed at improving functioning in old age.
Due to unavailability of data, the WHO baseline report compares data from only 42 countries. The analysis revealed that 142 million older people in these countries are unable to meet their basic needs. The lack of data on healthy aging contributes to their invisibility. Governments and other stakeholders need to invest in data to track, monitor and measure.
Addressing ageism, creating age-friendly environments, integrated care and long-term care are the four action areas of the Decade of Healthy Aging. Improvements are expected in these areas by 2030. The goal for the decade is to improve the “functional capacity” of older people..
Pakistan is one of 15 countries with a population of over 10 million people aged 60 and above. With a current elderly population of 16 million in Pakistan, it is predicted that by 2050, the country’s elderly population will have increased to 45 million. Pakistan is also a signatory to the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing, stressing the importance for older people to have a secure income, access to health care, housing and participation in decision-making. On the other hand, Pakistan still does not have a national policy on the rights and care of the elderly.
In Pakistan, the Elderly Acts were passed by the governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan in 2014, 2016 and 2017, respectively. The Islamabad Capital Territory Elderly Act was also passed in 2021. However, the elderly in Punjab still lack a law protecting their rights. Unfortunately, the implementation of the legislation has not started or is progressing very slowly.
The Decade of Healthy Aging places a strong emphasis on the availability of data and information to measure improvements in the functional ability of older people. The baseline report also outlined goals for monitoring progress over time; the first report will be published in 2023 and further reports in 2026 and. All WHO and UN Member States have engaged in the process and 194 countries worldwide are expected to submit information.
It is essential that the government of Pakistan starts planning for the first report, which is due in 2023, and raises awareness about the Decade of Healthy Aging and the benchmark report. Also, other departments should come forward and incorporate healthy aging into their plans and programs, in addition to the Department of Social Welfare. Since functional ability is a broad concept, all segments of society must work together to create an age-friendly environment.
It is essential that governments work with the private sector and civil society to raise awareness and develop new programs. It is essential that academia leads new research efforts and helps government identify gaps. This is a good opportunity for academia to conduct new research on the functional ability of older people in Pakistan.
The author is a communications specialist and a freelance writer. He is based in Rawalpindi and can be contacted at: [email protected]. He tweets @qureshiwaqasA