Old Age: Professional interventions needed

Evidence suggests that the proportion of life in good health has remained broadly constant, implying that the additional years are in poor health

Mehbooba Rasool

People worldwide are living longer. Today most people can expect to live into their sixties and longer. Every country in the world is experiencing growth in both the size and the proportion of older persons in the populations.

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2021-2030 the decade of healthy aging, which is a global collaboration bringing together governments, civil society, international agencies, professionals, academia, media and private sector for 10 years of concerted, catalytic and collaborative action to foster longer and healthy lives.

The decade of healthy aging (2021-2030) seeks to reduce health inequities and improve the lives of older people, their families and communities through collective action in four areas: changing how we think, feel and act towards age and ageism; developing communities in ways that foster the abilities of older people, delivering the person centered integrated care and primary health services responsive to older people who need and providing who need it with access to quality long term care.

Evidence suggests that the proportion of life in good health has remained broadly constant, implying that the additional years are in poor health. If people can experience these extra years of life in good health and if they live in a supportive environment, their ability to do the things they value will be little different from that of a younger person. If these added years are dominated by declines in physical and mental capacity, the implications for older people and for society are more negative.

Older adults often face a combination of challenges, including prejudicing against people who are ageing, changing occupational or financial status, the physical and mental declines that tend to come with ageing. Older adults deal with the added pressure of ageism (discrimination against people based on age) and ableism (discrimination against those with disabilities). The diversity seen in older age is not random. Beyond biological changes aging is often associated with other life transitions such as retirement, relocation to more appropriate housing and the death of friends and partners.

Geriatric Social Workers work with the older population in many settings. At any organization that serves physical, mental, emotional and social needs of senior citizens, geriatric social workers play a crucial role providing direct care (counseling, advising, resource navigation services etc).

In Kashmir the older adults have become more vulnerable in the society because of the turmoil since three decades. Although turmoil is not having a direct impact on the ageing but elderly have also suffered seriously at the hands of turmoil. Many of the aged have lost their young ones who were the only supporters, and bread earners for them and have been rendered wandering in frustration and depression. Aged have thus suffered physically, socially, and psychologically and economically in union territory of J and K.

A society is measured by how it cares for its elderly citizens. Despite the fact that a sizable population of elderly is growing in J & K, the geriatric care (elderly care) still continues to be in infancy. The aged persons are not entitled to various benefits either at the level of public or private agencies except ISSS and National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS) run by departments of social welfare. The Sheri Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences and SMHS have the departments of geriatrics which typically have inpatient and outpatient divisions and support older patients who suffer from chronic and acute health conditions. Socio-economic status of the elderly needs to be assessed professionally by the Medical Social Worker. Medical Social Workers who work at hospitals and medical centers must collaborate with a large medical team of physicians, nurses, medical assistants, physiotherapists, psychologists and other staff. They should evaluate patient needs, develop a treatment plan, and coordinate geriatric patient care and maintain submit patient records and documentation. They also should counsel patients and help them navigate resources. Geriatric Social Workers play a pivotal role in providing direct care to ensure patients get the inpatient and outpatient support they require. Geriatric Social Workers are the patient’s advocates. Considering the challenges and problems that the geriatric population is facing, the society as a whole should provide a supportive, physical and social environment including availability of safe and accessible public buildings and transport and places that are easy to walk around; developing a public health response to ageing. It is important not just to consider individual and environmental approach that ameliorate the losses associated with older age but also those that may reinforce recovery, adaptation and psychosocial growth.

Mehbooba Rasool is Medical Social worker, Geriatrics, SKIMS

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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