Active people over 80: Do not see the patient, see the human

Active80 logo ‘Do you see me, beyond my care needs and beyond my wrinkles? Do you see that I am a sportsman, that I had children, that I have led a full life before being here?’ An impressive video about a care home resident opened the workshop of the Erasmus+ project Active 80plus in the Hague on 08 June, delivering the project’s first results. Very older people are often regarded as inactive and patients of various health conditions, rather than as people who are of value to society. The workshop provided powerful examples of how people can be activated even at a very old age and with long-term care needs.

The workshop brought together partners from the Active 80 plus consortium from Austria, Germany, Lithuania and the Netherlands and members of AGE Platforms task forces. AGE member OVN-Netherlandsis also member of the project consortium. In a keynote speech, held by Prof Tinie Kardol from the University of Brussels (VUB), the importance of talking to older persons was highlighted. Even in residential care settings, older persons need a sense of their identity and want to develop their talents and have something to look forward to. ‘We have still so much to learn’, was his key message.

Prof Jacques Allegro showed concrete examples from Amsterdam, where older people self-organised to re-create a village ambience, organise activities and inform themselves about topics such as sustainable housing. Helle Hende Staermosen from Lillebaelt University has led a project, EVARS (Elderly volunteers as a resource for society), creating a training manual for older volunteers, and training them to motivate other senior citizens to be and stay active.
The Active 80+ project consortium showcased their practices in round-tables. The project has developed training materials and an impressive collection of practices on involvement of the very old.

The workshop closed with round-tables on policy recommendations at EU, national and local levels:

The EU…

  • should promote programmes on active ageing that focus on very old citizens,
  • favour the development of public infrastructure,
  • involve old and very old citizens in its decision-making.

National governments…

  • should ensure that 80+ appear in the media with positive images,
  • should include life-long learning as well as active citizenship in their programmes.

At local and regional level,…

  • people over 80 should be actively included by creating barrier-free environments, programmes for intergenerational dialogue.
  • Especially, care settings should not build a frontier to active engagement in society.

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