Thirty years ago, the United Nations General Assembly designated October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons, with the aim of raising awareness of the issues of aging and the need to protect and care for the elderly population.
It is estimated that over the next three decades, the number of older people in the world will more than double, exceeding 1.5 billion people by 2050. Portugal, by 2050, is expected to have 32% of its population aged 65 years and older.
The first thing we need to keep in mind is that getting healthy at age 65 or older requires care measures that begin in the tenderest stages of our lives, even before birth. Scientific evidence shows, for example, that a baby born underweight or prematurely is more likely to develop diseases such as diabetes, hypertension or obesity at an early age.
Care throughout a child’s developmental stage is also essential to his future health. Breastfeeding and loving and caring parental involvement allow babies to gradually develop skills in their minds to cope with future challenges. Practicing physical activity and eating a healthy diet during school time will make a difference. Likewise, it is essential to ensure a comprehensive and quality education so that children, in particular those from the most disadvantaged social strata, can have access to information and knowledge and use it for the benefit of their health. and the community in which they live. when adults.
Living and working conditions are also important for better health in adulthood. Material deprivation or unsafe and unhealthy working conditions contribute to the early development of chronic diseases.
In turn, habits such as smoking, alcohol abuse and a diet based on industrialized products turn out to be enemies of healthy aging.
Having a network of friends in the community with whom we can interact and support each other is a protective factor in old age. Affordable health and social services, equipped with the skills to deal with the very specific problems of this stage of life are essential.
Aging with health therefore poses the challenge of being aware that the choices and attitudes we adopt in our daily life will have repercussions in the later stages of our life. In other words, just as we are made to think, when we are young, what we will be when we are older, we should also be made to think about how we want to reach the last stages of life. our life.
However, if we aspire to a society in which people can age in good health and have a quality of life in the later stages of life, it is essential that the state take responsibility for placing the well-being of the population at the center of its decisions. After all, public policies play a fundamental role at all stages of our lives and make a decisive contribution to reducing the social inequalities that so negatively affect people’s lives.
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The year 2020 is bringing deep marks to the elderly population around the world due to the covid-19 pandemic. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres has rightly pointed out, the pandemic has not only had an immediate impact on health, but it puts older people at greater risk of poverty, discrimination and isolation.
In the midst of so many uncertainties and “Covidian” tragedies, International Day of Older Persons should be used to reflect on the values we want to share in an increasingly aging world.
The author writes according to the new spelling agreement