The current demographic trend turns people over 65 in the fastest growing population group. By 2060, the number of people over 65 in Europe will be twice todays and 1 in 8 people will be 80 or older.
Older people could have a more active social role at all levels and contribute to future generations with their life experience and wisdom. Thus the concept “being active” directly involves the three components of the welfare of the person: physical, cognitive and social, and these improvements in quality of life also impact on savings in health expenditure for the whole of society.
With three key objectives of enhancing the role of older people in society, the European Union launched in 2012, the European Year of Active Ageing and Intergenerational Solidarity; and as one of the key points, the importance of promoting active and healthy aging and independent living is highlighted.
In this context, physical activity, understood by the World Health Organization as “a process that gives individuals and populations the means to ensure greater control over their own health and to improve it” clearly has a key role towards the development in the area of active healthy and dignified aging, and ultimately to separate the chronological age from the functional age in order to change the mentality that society holds over the “older person”.
However, the regulatory and legislative environment in Europe is diverse and demonstrates a perception of physical activity that differs from one country to another. Is this a recreational movement tool? Or a prevention tool that aims to maintain older people’s autonomy and health? Very few countries choose to innovate and give physical activity a key role in “aging well”, i.e. “aging better”.
The clinical trial HAPPIER (Healthy Activity & Physical Programa Innovations in Elderly Residences) assessed the effectiveness of group and organized programs of adapted physical activity in homes for the elderly and their impact in terms of the human and organizational environment.
The study has shown significant benefits of implementing exercise programs developed by Siel Bleu, a non-profit organization expert in the design and development of adapted physical activity programs to prevent loss of autonomy, particularly the most serious falls that in both cases generate higher health costs.
Therefore, the study could easily be generalized within the framework of a European public health program, and could contribute directly to the objectives for active aging advocated by the Phare Europe 2020 Initiative “A Union of Innovation ‘.
Maintaining social inclusion and physical autonomy of older people for longer, are the challenges in the coming decades. HAPPIER proves that physical activity is part of the solution for successful aging.
Siel Bleu Foundation