When the United Nations declared the years 2021 to 2030 the “Decade of Healthy Aging,” it noted that there is a growing gap between how long someone will live and how many healthy years of life he or she can expect. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed major shortcomings in the ability of health care systems to serve older adults and opened our eyes to the need to redefine how we care for the most vulnerable older people.
With those challenges in mind, AARP recently convened international experts and executives for the Global Conference on Redefining Health: New Approaches for How We Live and Age. And we have released the “Aging Readiness and Competitiveness Report (ARC) 3.0.”
This report, developed along with the London-based think tank Economist Impact, focuses on key challenges in healthy aging. But it also highlights innovations in some surprising places in four key areas: ensuring access to health care services for all older adults, strengthening the availability of long-term care, supporting aging in place and caring for older people in crisis situations.
For example, here in the U.S., the hospital-at-home program works to reduce the strain on health care systems by offering quality care for older Americans in their homes. In addition, it supports many older adults’ desire to age in place. The program has been adopted in Australia, Europe and Asia.
Some other innovative examples from around the world include:
- In Vietnam, Intergenerational Self-Help Clubs respond to the health care needs of older adults, especially in rural areas. Typical activities include home health visits and care, microfinance and technical assistance, music, dance and art.
- The government in Taiwan has established a program that promotes age-friendly institutions and covers four areas of health care: administration policy, communication and service, care procedures and physical environment.
- In Uganda, Kaaro Health has repurposed used shipping containers to build a sophisticated “clinic in a box” system. The approach uses solar-powered telehealth clinics in rural areas to provide diagnoses and prescriptions.
- Thailand has partnered with Japan to create a community-based care program to improve care coordination after an older adult is discharged from a hospital. Selected volunteers and nurses travel to Japan to receive training in care coordination for older adults. Then, when they return to Thailand, they train other volunteers and nurses.
At AARP, we believe that fresh approaches such as these are the key to closing the gap between longevity and healthy aging.