Active and healthy aging: the topics of the Social Protection Network meeting
The Standing Conference of Cities and Municipalities (SKGO), in cooperation with the Protector of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia, organized the eleventh meeting of the SKGO Network for Social Protection on 22 November 2023 in Belgrade. The key topics of this meeting were active and healthy aging, with special reference to the recently adopted Strategy of Active and Healthy Aging in the Republic of Serbia for the period 2024-2030, as well as the development of services for older persons at local level, presentation of social and health care services for older women living in the countryside, as well as inter-municipal cooperation in improving the accessibility of services and information, in accordance with the principles of universal design.
The participants of the Social Protection Network meeting were first addressed by Zoran Pašalić, the national Ombudsman, Dr. Marina Vidojević, Deputy Minister for Labour, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs, and Nikola Tarbuk, Secretary General of SKGO. Nataša Todorović, expert associate of the Red Cross of Serbia, also took part in the meeting.
Nataša Todorović spoke about the work of the Red Cross of Serbia, but she also pointed out several facts about healthy aging. The World Health Organization declared the period 2020-2030 the Decade of Healthy Aging and within the decade we have four areas of action: 1. age-appropriate environment, 2. fight against ageism, 3. integrated health and social care services, 4. long-term care services.
Older persons are a heterogeneous group and at all times we must be aware of the fact that older population is the most diverse age group that exists. The difference between a 65-year-old and a 95-year-old is usually far greater than that between a 35-year-old and a 65-year-old.
Therefore, the first important component of this approach to healthy aging must be based on the understanding that a “typical older person” does not actually exist. Any policy must cater equally for both ends of the spectrum to properly include those who need care and support for basic activities of daily living, people who are burdened by illness, as well as those who are in excellent shape and provide care and support to others.
Another component is that aging should be viewed from a life course perspective, that is, healthy aging begins in kindergarten; research shows that early investments have the greatest impact. It is necessary to introduce the concept of healthy aging at an early age, so that already in kindergarten we have curricula related to it. Through its work, the Red Cross of Serbia promotes healthy lifestyles through education with school children, using peer educators who promote healthy lifestyles by example. It should be emphasized that it is never too late to invest in healthy aging, early investments give the best results.
Currently, the Red Cross of Serbia is coordinating an EU project where there are 30 centers in the Western Balkans where older persons meet every week and have different activities that promote healthy aging. In Kragujevac alone, 90 older persons meet every Tuesday in the Healthy Aging Corner, they design their own activities, taking care that no one is left behind.