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RHAC/SCHSAC Workgroup on Healthy Aging
Fall 2005
Minnesota Department of Health
Healthy Aging Communities
Definition of Healthy Aging
Healthy aging is the development and
maintenance of optimal physical, mental and
social well-being and function in older adults.
This will most likely be achieved when
communities are safe, promote health and wellbeing and use health services and community
programs to prevent or minimize disease.
(Adapted from WV Rural Healthy Aging Network, West Virginia
University Center on Aging: )
Dimensions of Aging Communities
Healthy aging communities promote health
across the life span and recognize the multidimensional complexities of supporting older
adults. These communities recognize that two
older adult populations exist—the healthy,
functioning majority and the frail minority—
and plan accordingly.
The probability of some type of disease or
chronic condition increases with age. After age
85, only one person in 20 is fully mobile and
roughly half of people over 85 will suffer some
type of cognitive impairment or dementia.
(Adapted from “Taking Care: Ethical Caregiving in Our Aging
Society” President’s Council on Bioethics, 2005:
“The defining characteristic of our time
seems to be that we are both younger longer
and older longer. . .”
~The President’s Council on Bioethics “Taking
Care: Ethical Caregiving in Our Aging Society”
Individuals, communities and systems can
assess their abilities to address these
interrelated issues by asking:
(Adapted from The AdvantAge Initiative, )
Addressing Basic Needs
The basic needs of the aging population are the
same as the basic needs of any population—
food, shelter, safety and transportation. For the
aging population it means a community that
can offer:
A community that promotes healthy aging must
look at an array of interrelated issues including:
Health and wellness
Financial security
Work and retirement
Recreation, arts and education
Civic engagement
(Adapted from “Aging Friendly Communities” Nebraska Cooperative
Extension HE Form 536.)
Do we address basic needs?
Do we optimize physical and mental
health and well-being?
Do we promote and support social and
civic engagement?
Do we have systems and programs that
maximize the independence of frail and
disabled seniors?
Appropriate and affordable housing
A safe home and community
Access to necessities such as
nearby shopping
Transportation, including public and
volunteer options and
Accessible health care and medical
facilities and services.
“The virtues required to age well are the
universal virtues needed by human beings of
every age; the old are not a separate species,
but human beings living human lives who
should be held to human standards.”
~The President’s Council on Bioethics “Taking
Care: Ethical Caregiving in Our Aging Society”
Healthy Aging Communities – page 2
Optimizing Health and Well-being
Supporting Independence for Elderly
Research shows that access to appropriate and
affordable health care is one of the highest
priorities of older Americans. Healthy aging
communities ensure that:
Most elders prefer to live in their own homes.
According to the 2000 census data, 76.4
percent of Minnesotans 65 and older live in
owner occupied housing.
People are encouraged to live healthy
and active lives
A health care infrastructure is supported
including hospitals, clinics, long term
care, home care and hospice
Health services are well coordinated
Health professionals are in adequate
supply and skilled to meet the needs of
older adults
Community and provider systems are in
place to manage chronic conditions and
Caregivers—both family and
volunteer—are valued and supported.
(Adapted from “Aging Friendly Communities” Nebraska Cooperative
Extension HE Form 536.)
“If I’d have known I was going to live this long,
I would have taken better care of myself.”
~Eubie Blake
Promoting Social/Civic Engagement
Healthy senior communities support the
concept of “aging in place”—the idea that
older people have the option to remain in their
own homes and environments as long as
possible to avoid—or at least reduce—the
need for institutional arrangements. Healthy
aging communities support systems that
include home care, chore services and
accessible transportation.
(Adapted from “A Report to the Nation on Livable Communities:
Creating Environments for Successful Aging” AARP: )
A Healthy Community for all Ages
Supporting the development of healthy aging
communities does not only benefit older adults.
Increasing affordable housing benefits young
families as well as older people. Providing
services to support independent living reduces
the stress on younger caregivers while helping
people with disabilities of all ages.
Connectedness to family, friends and
community is one of the social determinants of
health. Healthy aging communities provide
opportunities to be involved through:
Arts and recreation
Age-friendly employment
Educational opportunities
Caregiver support
Volunteer opportunities and
Church and spiritual support activities.
Initiatives that bridge the generations integrate
the old with the young, transmit knowledge to
future generations and reinforce the value of
people of all ages.
These community-wide benefits reflect the
reality that older adults are important members
of families and neighborhoods. Older adults
need services and support that help them live
their lives with dignity and respect so they can
continue to contribute to their communities.
(Adapted from The AdvantAge Initiative, )