AGE discusses long-term care along the life course at International Conference on Integrated Care

AGE participated in the 24th International Conference on Integrated Care (ICIC24) in April, co-leading an engaging workshop on the present and future of long-term care as part of the Horizon 2020 project LAUREL.

Entitled ‘Taking the leap: making integrated care a reality for people and communities’, the ICICI24 conference brought together more than 1000 leaders, researchers, clinicians, managers, community representatives, patients and caregivers from around the world to Belfast, Northern Ireland, to exchange experiences and good practices in the design and delivery of integrated health and care.

Long term care challenges and opportunities along the life-course

Our joint workshop was framed within the EU-funded Laurel, in which AGE is a partner. This project aims to support the care sector in building better systems for integrated long-term care (LTC). It was jointly implemented with Giulia Lanfredi from Eurocarers, Albert Alonso and Roger Cáceres from Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica, and chaired by IFIC’s Ageing and Frailty Special Interest Group, Anne Hendry.

On 22nd April, we joined around 15 delegates from Europe, Japan, Canada and Pakistan, and invited them to share the current perceptions, experiences and policy actions they consider needed to ensure a high-quality affordable and accessible integrated long-term care for all those who needed it.

As an introduction, we started by clarifying what we mean by “care and support”: any service and assistance for people with (one or several) physical and/or mental health condition(s) required to live well.

Every individual requires care and support throughout life – what may vary is the kind of services needed and how much we need them. For some time now, AGE has been advocating for a new vision of care as described in our Policy Brief on Care in 2021 or in the Bay of Care report defending a Long-Term Care Empowerment Model in 2022.  

The delegates were divided into three main groups to discuss key challenges of long-term care :

  1. Lack of access to LTC and / or social protection with a special emphasis on the disadvantages related to gender and to living in remote, rural or island areas.
  2. Prevalence of ageism and ableism that impact the access and delivery of LTC.
  3. The role for informal carers and workforce shortage in LTC systems.

After some brief discussions, participants were invited to rank the importance and feasibility of suggested solutions in their contexts and applicability across the life-course. The main consensus was around the urgency to set up new funding schemes that can follow the progress towards a more integrated community-based approach.

We cannot only move care from hospitals to the community, asking people and particularly informal caregivers to take the lead in care, and then the budget does not follow, commented one of the researchers present in the discussion.

Equally important is the need for:

  • regulatory frameworks that push for a better coordination between the different stakeholders under the lead of the person in need of care and
  • setting up/aligning indicators to monitor the quality of care.

Finally, concrete actions were discussed, like the creation of one-stop-shop/health kiosks, awareness campaigns against ageism in the healthcare and in the community and preventive actions like home visits. A more detailed report will be available on the Laurel website very soon.

Where next for Laurel?

As we move forward, the insights gained from ICIC24 will fuel LAUREL’s continued research and policy development efforts. Over the next three years, we will continue to study existing systems and gather insights from experts into the regional and gender differences of long-term care provision. Using this intelligence, we will produce actionable policy recommendations and training tools to help systems all over Europe deliver more effective and equitable care.

To sum up, the 24th International Conference on Integrated Care (ICIC24) provided once more a critical platform for advancing global discussions on the rights of older people and changing the mindset on how care should be delivered. With over 1000 attendees, the event highlighted the urgent need for systems that are inclusive, empowering, and adapted to meet diverse needs. All the insights shared, along with the collaborative insights gained, will contribute to guide LAUREL’s ongoing research and policy-making efforts to enhance care quality across Europe.

Next year, the conference will take place in Lisbon, Portugal from 14-16 May 2025.

Good practices around the world

Numerous good practices presented at the ICIC24 showed that the change for integrated health and care systems that empower people at all stages of their lives, enabling their participation and supporting their autonomy, has already started.

One of the good examples comes from the NORC Innovation Centre in Ontario, Canada. NORC looks for ‘Naturally occurring retirement communities’ which are communities that naturally come to house a high density of older adults and runs a series of capacity-building actions to empower older people leadership (the so-called ‘NORC ambassadors’) and bring the community together. The goal is to support ageing in place by building and strengthening the availability and accessibility of services needed by the older residents in an efficient and coordinated way, taking advantage of the natural densities.

Read our article here.

Another good example to support older adults with chronic diseases came from Singapore: ‘HealthStart – a co-designed volunteer-led health advocacy and coaching programme for older adults. This project is a partnership between the Singapore General hospital and TRIGEN (local NGO) and recruits volunteers to do home visits under the leadership and supervision of healthcare professionals. The older people with chronic diseases can count on the support of the volunteers to have engaging conversations but also to adopt healthier lifestyles by setting health goals and interacting with helpful technology.

Read more about the project in our related article.

Finally, regarding technology and data integration of health and care, Digital Health and Care Northern Ireland (DHCNI) shared their experiences. This public strategy aims to integrate systems across the health and social care sector at all levels, ensuring that everyone’s data is protected and empowering individuals to care for themselves and take control of their own health and well-being.

This digital strategy has been developed alongside our people. We are moving towards personalised care, including full visibility of health data and care pathways, which allows to identify the best approaches and care pathways for everyone while empowering people and staff, stated Dr. Dan West, Chief Digital Information Office at the Department of Health in Northern Ireland.

Check the full strategy here.


Sofia Nunes

Project Officer

Vera Hörmann

Project Officer

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