Above: Dr Alexandre Kalache and the UN's, Dirk Jarre, at IFA in Prague.
By Yasmin Noone
The International Federation on Ageing (IFA) 11th Global Conference on Ageing opened in the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague, last week with a burst of rock’n’roll from local Czech rockers, Cadillac, performing Johnny Be Good and Rock Around the Clock.
Active ageing was the catchcry of the 20-year old event with many sessions focusing on projects which aim to encourage older people to remain active and engaged in their community, or on the government action that is required to make policies ‘all age’ plans.
The conference presentations dealt with the concept of creating age friendly cities; incorporating new technology into caring; educating employers to plan for more older workers, and securing and respecting older people's rights.
Alzheimer’s Australia Vic’s media and communications manager, Christine Bolt, was in Prauge for the conference to present on the Aged and Community Care Victoria’s (ACCV) Be Inspired campaign, with CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia Vic and CEO of ACCV, Gerard Mansour.
Ms Bolt said one of the main highlights was a presentation from keynote speaker, Dr Alexandre Kalache, who is the former chief of the Ageing and Life Course Programme World Health Organization.
The advocate for older person’s rights, Dr Kalache, reminded everyone of the baby boomers’ revolutionary power and that they were the first generation to experience ‘adolescence’.
And, he said, they are still a dominating force as they are now the first to encounter ‘gerontolescence’ (baby boomers who actively age).
Head of Strategic Alliances for HelpAge International, Sylvia Beales, discussed the Make It Ageless campaign which advocates that an older person’s right to be heard is timeless, “so let’s make it ageless”. The campaign encourages people to join the Make it Ageless virtual march urging the European Union (EU) to actively include older people in their development policies and programs.
The “Ageing Connects” IFA 11th Global Conference on Ageing aimed to provide a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary forum for positive ageing advocates from around the world to network and share information about new research and evidence-based program and policies.
Royal District Nursing Services’ (RDNS) executive GM, Rosemary Hogan, also attended the conference.
Ms Hogan said most of the presentations concentrated on macro issues, like the ageing of international populations, as well as those that focused on micro issues, such as the extent to which health determinates are a factor in delayed retirement or workforce participation for the elderly.
But, she commented, after listening to various presentations about ageing populations worldwide, it was clear that “we are not remarkably different to the rest of the world” in the demographic challenges we face".
“There is certainly an enormous focus on the sheer volume of people in each country who are aged over 70 and 80 years old…” said Ms Hogan.
“But in fact, there were several presentations about the ageing of populations that were full of doom and gloom.
“[The ageing of the population] is a concern for many countries at a government level as there are whole beurocracies that are really unprepared for the impact of a really big ageing population.
“And some places and countries are doing it better than others.
“South Australia was held up as an example of a state government that really looked at how to make itself an age-friendly city.”
The main issues that came out of the European presentations were the “financial issues and that governments and beaurocrats were always lagging behind other parts of the world in terms of good policy direction and resolving some of the issues related to an ageing population.
“In the presentations I saw, there were some several representatives’ from Asian countries who spoke of a similar sort of thing but their presentations were more about micro than macro issues.”
Presenting at the IFA conference, Ms Hogan discussed Australia’s ageing population, our ageing nurse workforce and on the effectiveness and efficiency of current technological initiatives.
“While there is much work to be done on strategies for recruitment and the retention of nurses, it will be critical to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the workforce that is left,” Ms Hogan said.
The main way to do this, she said, is through innovation and reform which will change current models of care, change scope of practice, reduce demand through improved preventative health measures and retain existing employees in the workforce through improved practice and workplace environments.
However, she stressed, an technology has to be properly resourced otherwise you can actually lose a lot of effectiveness via internet delays, staff not being able to plug in telehealth equipment in people’s homes for some reason and troubleshooting issues.
“Some of the gains by potentially made in the workforce by the implementation of technology can be lost because of those issues.”
The key challenge is therefore to design and ensure finished technology products that are user-intuitive.
“I envisage a future where more consideration will be given to involving the end-user in the process of designing equipment.
“I’m looking forward to a future where it’s a ‘total future’. At the moment, we are looking at telehealth initiatives but haven’t mapped it out what they mean from the start to the end process and how to manage these initiatives.
“I think that’s one of the challenges in front of us now – to find out what each technological initiative needs to look like and how we need to use it to make sure it runs smoothly right from the start to the end.”