Aging is one of the most significant social transformations nowadays. People worldwide are living longer. Today, for the first time in history, most people can expect to live into their sixties and beyond. By 2050, the world’s population aged 60 years and older is expected to exceed that of young people aged 15 to 24 (source: WHO).
As life expectancy is getting longer society needs to adapt to these unprecedented demographic changes. Every person – in every country in the world – should have the opportunity to live a long and healthy life. The key problem here is the lack of participating opportunities which leads to social exclusion and poorer health conditions. Enriched participation environments can help reduce cognitive decline due to aging as well as helping older adults deal with depression and low self-esteem. It is not easy to remain socially involved in a fast-changing world when you are getting older; hence, many older people become isolated from society, feel lonely, and left aside.
Older people today are in better mental and physical health than previous generations. They are far away from the old stereotypes of aging, which included dependence, disability, and decline. They are capable and skilled. Our brains develop in many ways as we get older, including complex problem solving and emotional skills.
A growing number of older people participate in some kind of meaningful activity or employment: some try different hobbies or activities, others volunteer or travel, and still, others work part-time. For example, N. Marcinkėnienė worked as a Lithuanian language teacher. She fell in love with cycling when she was 40 years old and she has been on half-year hikes, from Athens to Beijing, Tobago to Rio de Janeiro. She even did the “Camino de Santiago” – from Vilnius, Lithuania to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Or like A. Baltaduonis who changed his career after forced retirement. He had a professional career in sport but became a tour guide. As he told, “you may lose your job, but it can’t stop you to live the dream and start everything from the beginning.”
Studies show that people who open themselves up to new learning experiences often find themselves involved in more social experiences and developing new skills also adds a new level of interest to a person’s life. Participating in various activities at an older age allows individuals to develop valuable skills to improve career prospects and expand their professional knowledge. It also gives them a better ability to reach their full potential.
Organizations should create equal opportunities to participate for all ages. Social activities keep people connected, healthy, and active. To do that, a community needs to meet the needs of people of all ages, whether someone is pushing a stroller or using a walker.
To achieve an inclusive society for all ages we should provide seniors with the opportunity to continue contributing to society. It is necessary to eliminate all the factors which make such participation more complicated. The social and economic contribution of elderly citizens reaches beyond their economic activities. They often play crucial roles in families and in the community. They make many valuable contributions that are not measured in economic terms: care for family members, productive subsistence work, household maintenance, and voluntary activities in the community. Moreover, these roles contribute to the preparation of the future labor force. All these contributions, including those made through unpaid work in all sectors by persons of all ages, should be recognized.
Creating and maintaining an age-friendly environment is essential for the success of an entire community. We are all aging, and it’s necessary to recognize the factors that improve the lives of older populations of today and for generations to come. There are so many ways to promote positive aging, from suggesting improvements to your local government to volunteering or giving to an organization that helps seniors, to simply reflecting on how you view aging.
Implementing age-friendly actions across multiple sectors and levels can improve the functional abilities of older citizens, including the “abilities” to meet basic needs; to participate; to continue to learn, grow and make decisions; to build and maintain relationships, and to contribute to society.
To contribute to the integration of seniors, we invite You to check the news about “Community Seniors Involved International” project. Here You will learn about initiatives and ways to boost youngsters’ empathy, respect, and social responsibility concerning older generations.