Brussels, 20 October 2014
Launch of SPRINTT project (Sarcopenia and Physical fRailty IN older people: multi-componenT Treatment strategies)
IMI SPRINTT project: Claiming that “the real challenge is to fight ageing” is a blatant form of ageism
AGE Platform Europe is appalled by the wording used in a recent press release issued by the IMI SPRINTT project , which presents itself as “the First European Collaborative Research to Fight Ageing” and notably claims that “Treating the diseases of old age is not enough: the real challenge is to fight ageing itself”. As the EU-level network representing more than 40 million older persons in the EU and advocating for more than 10 years to overcome ageist stereotypes, AGE Platform Europe is worried by the use of such blatant ageist communication in a large EU-funded project.
What’s wrong with ageing? Everyone knows that ageing starts at birth and is the natural process of life. Ageing per se is neither a problem nor a disease that needs new drug treatment. Afterall, “old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative!”  So why fight “ageing”? The stereotypical communication used in the press release by the SPRINTT project is misleading and conveys an ageist message where ageing is stigmatised and portrayed negatively.
“Increased life expectancy is one of the most important achievements of our society and thus ageing should be seen positively. EU-funded projects in the field of ageing play an important role in finding innovative solutions to support active and healthy ageing. They also contribute to shaping the agenda for discussing ageing issues and bear an important responsibility to convey a message that promotes a positive image of ageing” highlights Anne-Sophie Parent, Secretary-General of AGE Platform Europe, adding that “the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing was created precisely for that purpose and promotes initiatives that seek to prevent and cure old-age diseases, prevent falls and frailty, better integrate care and create age-friendly environments that support longer and healthier lives.” The World Health Organization (WHO)’s definition of active ageing: “Active ageing is the process of optimising opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age.
While AGE Platform Europe supports the objective of the SPRINTT project which is to find new ways to prevent or delay muscle loss (sarcopenia) and frailty in old age, we strongly object to the project tabloid-style communication strategy which does not reflect the EU objective to ‘enable EU citizens to lead healthy, active and independent lives while ageing’. Sarcopenia and frailty are too common in old age, in particular among the very old, and result either from a medical condition which needs adequate treatment and/or a combination of overmedication, malnutrition, lack of exercise and social isolation – an increasingly common problem faced by Europe’s ageing population. “The medical and social causes of sarcopenia and frailty need to be combatted but not ageing itself”, concludes Mrs Parent.
All EU funded projects are expected to respect the EU fundamental principle of non-discrimination and AGE calls on the high-level partners involved in the SPRINTT project to revise their communication strategy.
 Chinese proverb: Maurice Chevalier, New York Times , 9 October 1960
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- SPRINTT website: www.mysprintt.eu/
- SPRINTT press release
- European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing: https://ec.europa.eu/research/innovation-union/index_en.cfm?section=active-healthy-ageing