VASILIS VERVERIDIS / Alamy Stock Photo
En español | From wristbands that help older adults cross busy intersections to businesses that hire more senior workers, countries around the world are finding creative ways to prepare for the challenges and opportunities of a world population that will reach 1 billion over the age of 65, according to the 2018 AARP Aging Competitive and Readiness (ARC) research, released Monday.
Australia, Chile, Costa Rica, Lebanon, Mauritius, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and Taiwan are the 2018 countries the ARC initiative examines. The research provided by FP Analytics reveals that these countries have a common goal: to not only treat the needs of older adults, but to value their contributions to their communities.
Nine of the 10 countries, for example, have universal health coverage and eight have national plans in place to manage dementia. In the Netherlands, two advocacy organizations and a national medical society joined forces to develop an “age-friendly” accreditation for hospitals that evaluates facilities based on 14 measures of quality, including access to a medical team specializing in geriatric care. The accreditation criteria were developed in close collaboration with both health care professionals and older adults. Today, more than half of Dutch hospitals can claim the “age-friendly” label.
AARP launched the ARC initiative last year to assess how countries around the world are responding to the globe’s demographic shift in ways that empower and engage older adults. This year’s research pinpoints the progress of 10 nations in four key areas: community, technology, the workforce, and health care and wellness.
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“This research highlights the kinds of policy and other innovations that have the potential to engage a healthier, more independent older population and unleash their productive and economic potential,” says Debra Whitman, AARP executive vice president and chief public policy officer. “We believe that those nations that do so will succeed economically and socially.”
In New Zealand, Age Concern's Accredited Visiting Service pairs older individuals who would benefit from regular home visits with certified volunteers — often older adults as well — for weekly conversations. These visits are mutually beneficial for both clients and volunteers. And their impact is widespread: In fiscal year 2017, for example, the program’s 4,500 volunteers made more than 70,000 visits across the country.
This person-first approach is also being used in programs with a technological focus, such as Chile’s RedActiva initiative, which is experimenting with providing low-cost wristbands that use radio frequency identification (RFID) so older adults can access a range of nearby resources. These include free access to public restrooms, preferential seating on public transportation, longer crossing times at intersections, and special discounts and services at participating businesses.
Community involvement is at the center of Taiwan’s Barn Restaurant project, which takes on the issues of underemployment and isolation by hiring older adults on a part-time basis to sell food and regional handicrafts out of a converted barn in Tainan. The project received some initial government funding, but the restaurant is now entirely financially self-sustaining — and its success has inspired similar ventures in other Taiwanese cities in recent years.