In its Active Ageing policy framework, the World Health Organization defines active aging as the optimization process of participation, security, and health in an attempt to enhance the quality of life as individuals grows old. Healthy aging is essential in that it enables the elderly to play an active role in society and enjoy independence and the high quality of life. The essay will critique the active aging model of the World Health Organization and the application of social capital in various social policies and programs.
According to the WHO, Active Ageing Policy Framework, involvement in moderate and frequent physical activity helps in delaying functional deterioration at old age. For instance, it reduces the onset of chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. The policy suggests that regular activity could also greatly reduce the extent of the severity of disabilities among the aged which are associated with heart and chronic illnesses. The active aging policy reveals how living an active early life promotes independence at old age and the reduction of the risk of frequent falls among the elderly. Consequently, economic benefits will be realized because the medical costs for the active older people will be significantly lower (World Health Organization, 2002).
However, this policy framework only makes the considerable suggestions and does not provide the opportunities that could possibly encourage inactive people to become more active. The benefits of these physical activities heavily rely on affordability and accessibility. Funding systems that promote physical activities in a community can bring about several benefits such as improved health, cost saving and heightened social connection all which contributes to active aging (Abdullah, & Wolbring, 2013). In addition, the active aging model established the major determinants of active aging as health and social services, personal factors, behavioral factors, social factors, economic factors and the physical environment of an individual. The framework suggests that all these principal determinants and the interaction of the factors reflect upon the aging process of individuals and communities. The framework fails to attribute a cause of active aging to each of the determinants. The proposal brings out the need to evaluate how each of the active aging determinants influences old age in a multidimensional investigation. Therefore, in order to help the aging population, adequate funding on programs that benefit the aging population should be established (Farrell et al. 2015).
The World Health Organization has explored policies and factors that make the urban physical environment age-friendly. In its worldwide age-friendly cities project, the organization came up with strategies to make urban communities more age-friendly via community development, policy reforms, and through advocacy. Consequently, these strategies have improved the quality of life among the aging population living in urban centers (Bauman, Merom, Bull, Buchner, & Singh, 2016).
Representation of the aged in policy, laws, legislations, health, and social service delivery has been guided by international policy and legal frameworks particularly the WHO’s Active Ageing policy framework and the Political Declaration and Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. Each of the documents highlights the significance of health in old age and emphasizes on the potential for the contribution of the aged in society using their skills, wisdom, and experience. They outline a wide range of areas where maximization on active aging policies can enhance the contribution, autonomy, prolonged life expectancy, and independence of the aged. Therefore, adequate presentation of the old in health, legislation, and healthcare delivery is beneficial as it will enable the aging population receive the attention and care they deserve (World Health Organization, 2002).
In the last two decades, major attempts have been made in advancing the human rights of the old people in the International Human Rights Law. A couple of international treaties and instruments have been implemented referring to aging and the older people, preserving non-discrimination of older immigrants, older disabled persons, and older women. The human rights advocates for freedom from discrimination of the aged in matters pertaining to social security, health, sufficient living standards and their right to be free from abuse, violence or exploitation (Renteln, 2013).
The Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing put forward some priorities for action, which were development of older individuals, advancing wellness and health into old age and making sure that the old benefit from a supportive and enabling environment. The plan emphasized on some key issues, which included availing universal and non-discriminatory access to health-care services for the old. This ensured appropriate services for seniors with HIV/AIDS, effective training of caregivers and health practitioners, provision of proper health services to the elderly with disabilities. In addition, it protected this group of people from abuse, neglect, and violence against the aged and providing moral support and care to the care providers (Sidorenko & Mikhailova, 2014).
Several benefits have been realized as a result of this representation of old people in the health policies and models of care. For instance, advocating for active aging and healthier life choices in early stages of life has severely reduced the incidences of disability among the elderly thus, alleviating the health and economic burden of long-term care and boosts the quality of life for the seniors. In addition, there has been a continuous decline in the mortality rates among the older people and the population of those aged 80 and above is on the rise. The life expectancy and lifespan has been expanded due to these programs and policies that have proved that people can be healthy and independent in old age and can contribute to their families and communities (Day, 2014). However, the longer life-expectancies are kicking in with negative consequences in that the prevalence of dementia among the old is on the rise, especially the Alzheimer’s disease. The dementia patients need constant help and care in basic daily activities and this creates a health and economic burden. Hence, the government should come up with programs that benefit the welfare of the aging population Waverijn, Heijmans & Groenewegen, 2016.
Social capital refers to the social connections or networks that promote coordination and cooperation, an important aspect in the achievement of positive social and economic outcomes. It is a collective resource and a feature of social groupings instead of individuals and it is as a result of shared experiences which cultivate trust and reciprocity. It has been linked and applied to the healthcare domain, social policy, and programs of the older people. Therefore, in order to improve the welfare of the aged population, proper programs should be formulated that favor the well-being of this population (Kawachi& Berkman, 2014).
For instance, in Minnesota, Vital Aging Network (VAN) is assisting the seniors in becoming agents of social change in their societies. The organization trains them in community organization and instills in them skills to evaluate what their communities require, gather resources and develop new programs. Some of the projects that have been initiated as a result of VAN include construction of walking paths for the aged, a moderate physical activity program to decrease the risk of falls among the older population and a program to befriend the isolated seniors in the neighborhoods. Such an initiative reduces the need for a nursing home for the seniors in such a community because physical activity together with high social capital and the commitment to caring for each other keeps the aged population healthier (Swift, Abrams, Lamont & Drury, 2017). However, there are limitations to such a neighborhood design of social connections whereby not all communities have a cohesive neighborhood that can allow for such an initiative. Many societies lack a public platform for meetings or opportunities for engagement in meaningful activities. High rates of crime are the other obstacle whereby social networking cannot prosper in an environment that does not have a welcoming place for such an initiative (Gilbert, Quinn, Goodman, Butler & Wallace, 2013).
Gated communities being privately managed residential organizations hold a wide appeal on social capital among older people when it comes to their health and social life. They are marked as centers of security, social connection, neighborliness, group participation, common values and a sense of belonging that aim at recreating social capital and cohesion. They offer health enhancement opportunities due to the common gathering spaces, sports such as clubhouses, golf courses and swimming pools, the low-traffic streets and opportunities for participating in community programs. Despite these advantages, gated communities draw away the younger and wealthier retirees, leaving behind the seniors and the poorer elderly population. The residents left behind are less likely to have resources to organize for basic amenities and services such as transportation, police or emergency responses, street lighting and cleaning of public parks(Portes, 2014).
In conclusion, aging should neither be considered a burden nor be seen as a factor that reduces the seniors’ ability to contribute to their communities. Appropriate policies and programs should not only create awareness of the requirements and determinants of active, successful and healthy aging but also implement their recommendations by providing the key resources and showcasing practical initiatives of health promotion of the aged.
Abdullah, B., &Wolbring, G. (2013). Analysis of Newspaper Coverage of active aging through the lens of the 2002 World Health Organization active ageing report: a policy framework and the 2010 Toronto charter for physical activity: a global call for action. International journal of environmental research and public health, 10(12), 6799-6819.
Bauman, A., Merom, D., Bull, F. C., Buchner, D. M., & Singh, M. A. F. (2016). Updating the evidence for physical activity: summative reviews of the epidemiological evidence, prevalence and interventions to promote “Active Aging”. The Gerontologist, 56(Supplementary 2), S268-S280.
Bousquet, J., Kuh, D., Bewick, M., Standberg, T., Farrell, J., Pengelly, R.,&Camuzat, T. (2015). Operational definition of Active and Healthy Ageing (AHA): A conceptual framework. The journal of nutrition, health & aging, 19(9), 955.
Day, C. L. (2014). What older Americans think: Interest groups and aging policy? Princeton University Press.
Gilbert, K. L., Quinn, S. C., Goodman, R. M., Butler, J., & Wallace, J. (2013). A meta-analysis of social capital and health: A case for needed research. Journal of health psychology, 18(11), 1385-1399.
Kawachi, I., & Berkman, L. F. (2014). Social capital, social cohesion, and health. Social epidemiology, 2, 290-319.
Renteln, A. D. (2013). International human rights: universalism versus relativism. Quid Pro Books.
Portes, A. (2014). Downsides of social capital. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(52), 18407-18408.
Renteln, A. D. (2013). International human rights: universalism versus relativism. Quid Pro Books.
Sidorenko, A. V., &Mikhailova, O. N. (2014). Implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on ageing in the CIS countries: The first 10 years. Advances in Gerontology, 4(3), 155-162.
Swift, H. J., Abrams, D., Lamont, R. A., & Drury, L. (2017). The Risks of Ageism Model: How Ageism and Negative Attitudes toward Age Can Be a Barrier to Active Aging. Social Issues and Policy Review, 11(1), 195-231.
Waverijn, G., Heijmans, M., &Groenewegen, P. P. (2016). Chronic illness self-management: a mechanism behind the relationship between neighborhood social capital and health? The European Journal of Public Health, ckw185.
World Health Organization. (2002). Active Ageing-A Policy Framework. A contribution of the World Health Organization to the Second United Nations World Assembly on Ageing. Madrid (ES): WHO.
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