Recently I was very fortunate to attend the invitation-only International Federation on Ageing 2016 Summit on “Reablement and Older People” in Copenhagen, Denmark. 17 countries were represented, including China, Australia and Nigeria. During this trip I was able to speak to many high level officials about the Silver Spaces age in place home assessment mobile app I created (SilverSpaces.com). This was only recently released and is now being used in over 10 countries. I was the only attendee from the U.S. and experienced an extraordinary opportunity to participate in a dialogue over the definition and goals of reablement.
Before this conference, I (probably like you) had never heard the term “reablement.” So to put things in proper perspective, I shall use information provided to the conference participants:
“The World Health Organization (WHO) outlines a model of healthy ageing in its 2015 World Report on Ageing and Health that consists of two primary factors: an individual’s intrinsic capacity and functional ability. …Even if an individual’s intrinsic capacity is diminished, the person may be able to do the things that matter to them if they live in a supportive, enabling environment. This reflects the concept of maximizing functional ability, which, according to the WHO is the ultimate goal of healthy ageing.”
In this context, “intrinsic capacity” is defined as “all the physical and mental capacities that an individual can draw on at any point in time.” So reablement seeks to maximize the way health and social services are delivered to an aging population to help each person achieve the highest level of intrinsic capacity possible. To take this further, as an older person’s intrinsic capacity diminishes, an enabling city/state/country will provide the supports necessary to empower each aging adult to live life to the fullest, whatever that means to them individually.
The 2015 WHO report mentioned above blatantly states:
“Comprehensive public health action on population ageing is urgently needed. This will require fundamental shifts, not just in the things we do, but in how we think about ageing itself. The World Report on Ageing and Health outlines a framework for action to foster healthy ageing built around the new concept of functional ability. Making these investments will have valuable social and economic returns, both in terms of health and wellbeing of older people and in enabling their on-going participation in society.”
While a myriad of topics were discussed, two that the group centered on were the positive impact timely interventions can have on dementia and diabetes. There is much evidence to support that people with dementia have the ability to “adapt, adjust and change,” keeping them valued members of our communities. Services to those affected by dementia need to better reflect this. The cost (both financial and life quality) that diabetes has on society as a whole and the long-term implications of this disease was also a part of the group’s discourse. Enhanced proactive risk identification and an ever increasing awareness by care professionals to intercept and manage diabetes earlier in the disease state will be an essential part of improved health care overall. (Note: Globally one in every nine healthcare dollar was spent on diabetes care in 2014. More than 25% of people over 65 around the world have diabetes.)
Key to reablement is allowing each individual to identify what their own strengths and weaknesses are, regardless of whether they are physical or mental. To live life to the fullest means to focus on what we feel is important in our lives, what brings us joy and what we want to continue to do (perhaps with assistance) that brings meaning to our time on earth.
What I found to be most intriguing were the different ways in which the participating countries either were or were attempting to create this supportive environment. Heavily discussed were the types of services and supports provided, funding (or lack of it), barriers to successful implementation of these services and how we can best share information on these issues. But the one point eminently agreed to by the group is that we need to ASK the person what it is they value, NOT tell them. For it is what is important to that person that we want to preserve.
It becomes obvious that it is very important for us to listen closely to each other’s experiences in order for us to have a complete understanding of how we can best share successes and failures in reaching this valued goal to “enable people to be and to do what they have reason to value.”
Summary: World Report on Ageing and Health. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2015. Print.
Final Report: Reablement and Older People. International Federation on Ageing, 2016. Print.
By Derek Yach, Chair, World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Ageing & Chief Health Officer, Vitality
While a level of cognitive decline is normal with age, the ability of people to manage their finances poses challenges as our brains change with the passing years. On April 5, 2016, the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Agenda Council (GAC) on Ageing, the International Federation on Ageing (IFA), and the National Institute on Ageing (NIA) at Ryerson University hosted a high-level symposium in Toronto, Canada to explore the potential of innovative technologies to advance healthy aging with applicability to the financial services sector. Toronto – a city with an elderly population comprising approximately 15% of its two million residents – was selected as a location representing a growing cadre of expertise in healthy aging and cognitive decline.
Technology can support older adults. While advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, wearables, and mobile health applications can assist, seemingly simple innovations like grab bars, gently sloping ramps, and non-slip shoes can also enhance functionality. Dr. Geoff Fernie of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and Dr. Samir Sinha of Toronto’s Mount Sinai and University Health Network Hospitals indicated that for adequate implementation and scale, technologies must be incorporated into city planning, architecture, apparel, and product design.
Baycrest’s Dr. William Reichman and AGE-WELL’s Dr. Alex Mihailidis discussed disruption in healthcare. Baycrest is pioneering the creation of an innovative pipeline through the Canadian Centre for Brain Health and Innovation, while technology is being leveraged to meet seniors at home in Mt. Sinai’s Hospital at Home program. Dr. Amy D’Aprix, a social worker who consults for BMO Financial Group, further contended that interdisciplinary approaches must be used to lead the way in financial elder security. Education and awareness in relation to technology must be supported.
The Toronto symposium enabled stakeholders to contribute to a growing foundation of evidence and perspectives on the intersection of healthy aging, technology, and financial services. The input will be incorporated into a final symposium in Philadelphia in May 9-10 hosted by the WEF GAC on Ageing and the University of Pennsylvania. While simple and inclusive technologies can augment function to maintain capability and agency in later life, we must strike a balance between designing what is needed today while anticipating seniors’ future needs for tomorrow.
We are grateful to Jane Barratt, Secretary General of the International Federation on Ageing, and Stephanie Woodward, Executive Director at the National Institute on Ageing at Ryerson University, for their leadership in convening the Toronto symposium to advance the work of the WEF GAC on Ageing.
Written by: Ms Maëlle Undstad
I have been working as an intern for the last four months at the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) in Toronto. My internship at the IFA and my close collaboration with its team is a very interesting and rewarding experience that met my expectations. I wished to be immersed in a professional and Anglophone environment in order to see for myself the day-to-day routine of how an international non-governmental organisation works.
Ageing concerns all of us and it is now crucial that we become aware, collectively, of the situation in order to stimulate new initiatives and policies. I am directly involved in IFA projects which aim to improve the life of older people by providing reliable information. From this point of view, I undertake research on topics such as adult vaccination. This research is really interesting in terms of content because it is an opportunity to widen my knowledge about ageing issues. I can tap into several important skills such as research, analysis and synthetizing.
The IFA establishes ties and provides a good intermediation between local and national policies and international organizations. Good databases are therefore necessary. One of my tasks is to consolidate the IFA databases in order to target and work with the most relevant people in the ageing field. Also, I participated occasionally in workshops and Copenhagen summit organization. Because I am able to observe and to be involved in some administrative and organization tasks, I am learning a lot about how to organize an international event.
This internship offers me the opportunity to discover the North American working methods and management which are significantly different from European methods. Each member of the team must be able to work within a fast-paced environment. This is really stimulating. Also, this gives me the opportunity to see how international competition in the development of new technologies affects the IFA to renew their working methods and communication strategies.
To sum up, this internship offers me the opportunity to be immersed in and to reflect on crucial issues in a professional context. It helps me to further professional and personal goals and to deepen my academic achievements.
For all those reasons, I really encourage students to apply for an internship at the IFA where you will be able to acquire valuable knowledge and professionals skills.