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Don’t leave the elderly behind

first_imgLast Sunday, October 1, International Day of the Older Person was observed. Stakeholders, such as international organisations and governments, used the opportunity to highlight the issues affecting older persons, and lobbied for more support for this segment of the population.There is no doubt that among the more pressing issues affecting older persons are health concerns and the quality of care being provided to them on a daily basis. Hence the World Health Organization (WHO) used the occasion to call for a new approach to providing health services for older people. The organisation highlighted the role of primary care and the contribution community health workers can make in helping to ensure that older people live healthier and longer lives.According to Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, by the year 2050, one in five people in the world will be aged 60 and older. It is therefore crucial for governments to put in place systems which would allow for older persons to obtain the health services they need.WHO’s new Guidelines on Integrated Care for Older People recommend ways community-based services can help prevent, slow, or reverse declines in physical and mental capacities among older people. The guidelines also require health and social-care providers to coordinate their services around the needs of older people through approaches such as comprehensive assessment and care plans.Director of the Department of Ageing and Life course at WHO, Dr John Beard, noted that older adults are more likely to experience chronic conditions, and often multiple conditions at the same time. Yet, today’s health systems generally focus on the detection and treatment of individual acute diseases. He reasoned that if health systems are to meet the needs of older populations, they must provide ongoing care focused on the issues that matter to older people – chronic pain, and difficulties with hearing, seeing, walking, or performing daily activities. He noted that this would require much better integration between care providers.According to Beard, integrated care can help foster inclusive economic growth, improve health and wellbeing, and ensure older people have the opportunity to contribute to development, instead of being left behind.According to WHO, some countries are already making smart investments, guided by WHO’s Global Strategy on Ageing and Health. For example, Brazil has implemented comprehensive assessments, and expanded its services for older adults. Japan has integrated long-term care insurance to protect people from the costs of care. Thailand is strengthening the integration of health and social care as close as possible to where people live, while the Ministry of Health in Vietnam will build on its comprehensive health care system and the large number of elderly health care clubs to better meet the needs of older people in their communities. In Mauritius, the Ministry of Health provides universal health coverage for older adults, including a network of health clubs and primary care clinics with more sophisticated services in hospitals. The United Arab Emirates is meeting the health needs of older people by creating more age-friendly cities. In France, a new WHO collaborating centre called Gerontopole, located in the Toulouse University Hospital, is helping to advance research, clinical practice and training on Healthy Ageing.Here in Guyana, not much is being done by the authorities to raise awareness about the issues affecting the older population and/or to lobby for more support for them. Now that the Government is in the process of preparing Budget 2018, it is hoped that more resources would be allocated towards effective and targeted programmes aimed at ensuring our elderly are well taken care of. For example, there is need for more special care homes, retirement homes, special transportation, and priority treatment for our elderly. Also, there must be increased focus on long-term health care of older adults suffering from mental disorders, as well as to provide caregivers with education, training and support.Finally, if we are going to ensure that our senior citizens enjoy the “good life”, then they must, first of all, be entitled to a decent and livable pension at the end of the month. Added to this is that it would be a great joy for many if the Government were to take a decision to have the water and electricity subsidies restored. That said, we must always continue to explore ways and means of creating a more comfortable life for our elderly.last_img

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