Irish set the pace for healthy ageing

The Collaboration on Ageing project’s emphasis on active ageing and independent living is seen in Europe as a reference for best practice

Tue, Jul 23, 2013, 01:00

Making healthy ageing a reality for most is a social priority for Europe. The proportion of Europeans actively working relative to those retired is forecast to halve from a ratio of four to one to two to one by 2060, the European Commission has predicted.

Now Ireland is set to play a central role in Europe’s effort to add two healthy years of life to every European by 2020 as a major Irish collaboration on ageing has been officially recognised by Brussels.

Collage (Collaboration on Ageing) has been awarded a three star rating in Brussels for its bid to become a reference site for others to base best practice on through the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP AHA).

Led by UCC and the Louth Age Friendly County Initiative, Collage is a collaboration involving over 30 separate initiatives. Prof George Shorten, Dean of the School of Medicine at UCC, says that simply increasing a person’s life by two years is not enough – the aim is to increase the quality of those extra years.

The project is based on three basic pillars for achieving this goal. The first is prevention, screening and early diagnosis, the second is care and cure and the third is active ageing and independent living.

“The care and cure pillar is the strictly medical model where most of the efforts have gone to date, but the active ageing and independent living is the one where there is a lot of interest at the moment. The idea is that you take somebody who is ageing but healthy and functioning well in their community and you maintain and preserve their health by using all of the resources available to them in their community – social, psychological, technological and healthcare if needed. Smart technology geared at independent living for the elderly, also known as silver technology, has advanced so quickly and can be clearly applied,” explains Prof Shorten.

Example projects
In their submission to the EIP, UCC and Louth County Council had to identify three examples of good practice projects for active and healthy ageing in Ireland. All three projects – Louth Age Friendly Project, Community Based Assessment of Risk and Treatment Strategy (Carts) and Let Me Decide – were successful in being included.

Prof Shorten comments: “Most people in Ireland have never heard of the Great Northern Haven in Dundalk but all over Europe, people are looking at this project as an example of independent living for older people. Researchers from Dundalk Institute of Technology and the local authorities came together with the local HSE, gardaí and community action groups to develop an apartment block for 120 people where they get all the caring supports they need.”

The Louth project seeks to enhance the quality of life of older people through AAL (ambient assisted living), using the best of sensor and healthcare technology available and as part of a living lab for new technologies and services.

The second Irish best practice project in Collage is Carts, developed at UCC under Prof William Molloy.

The Carts programme is a risk screening tool, that aims to identify, quantify and manage risk of adverse outcomes among older adults living in the community.

“It can identify very reliably those who will end up needing hospitalisation or institutional care within the next six months. A lot of effort could then be directed into early intervention to prevent this outcome,” explains Prof Shorten.

The third project, Let Me Decide, is another UCC project involving an advance care directive for a person coming close to the end of their life who wishes to put their affairs in order. It innovatively plugs individuals into palliative care packages tailored to their needs.

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