Partnership Working and Co-Production to Achieve Healthy Ageing: Perspectives of The United Nations International Institute on Ageing

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As part of MENARAH’s engagement activities to raise awareness of healthy ageing in the Middle East and North Africa, Professor Hussein visited the United Nations’ International Institute on Ageing to discuss the topic with its Director, Professor Marvin Formosa.

The visit included several meetings with colleagues at the Institute, a seminar at the University of Malta and site visits to long-term care facilities. In a conversation with Professor Formosa, we discussed the meaning of healthy ageing and how we can promote healthy ageing behaviour. We also discussed the impact of COVID-19 on older people and their wellbeing.

Professor Formosa highlights the complexity of healthy ageing, where both subjective and objective aspects exist. He emphasised that we should not employ a purely medical perspective when examining healthy ageing as age-related diseases could be an inevitable part of the life course. Hence the meaning of healthy ageing should go beyond living with a complete absence of disease. He explains that living in a dignified way that fulfils an individual’s desires and aspirations can be regarded as healthy ageing, even in the presence of health conditions. Professor Formosa speaks eloquently about healthy ageing and how it may mean different things to various individuals and groups. Therefore, it is crucial to empower older people and ensure they have a voice when services and interventions are designed for them.

Professor Formosa also discusses the differences between the advice some people may receive to maintain their health and the realities they live in. For example, many people appreciate the value of regular physical exercise and having hobbies. However, many people may be unable to afford these due to long working hours or poverty. Furthermore, the environment they live in might not enable them to do so. He highlights that when considering interventions to promote healthy ageing, policymakers need to consider the individual within their context, families, and environment. Hence, policies should address the broader issues surrounding the individual and appreciate the limitations in implementing some interventions due to a lack of an infrastructure that facilitates the uptake of such interventions. Understanding the culture of ageing and the role of families and local communities and tailoring services and interventions will likely improve outcomes for older people and the wider society.

Professor Formosa highlighted the adverse impact of COVID-19 on older people and their families, especially in terms of increased levels of social isolation and adverse impact on their physical health. He concluded by calling for working in partnership across different ministries and in partnership with national and international organisations. More importantly, he emphasised, is ensuring a meaningful inclusion of older people’s voice and wishes.

MENARAH is looking forward to continued partnership and collaborative opportunities with the United Nations International Institute on Ageign and the University of Malta with the ultimate goal of enhancing the lives of older people across the MENA region.

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Director of the United Nations International Institute on Ageing, Malta

Marvin Formosa PhD is Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Gerontology and Dementia Studies, Faculty for Social Wellbeing, University of Malta. He holds the posts of Chairperson of the National Commission for Active Ageing (Malta), Rector’s Delegate for the University of the Third Age (Malta), and Director of the International Institute on Ageing United Nations – Malta (INIA). Prof. Formosa published widely in the field of ageing studies, and recent publications included Active and healthy ageing: Gerontological and geriatric inquiries (2018), and The University of the Third Age and active ageing: European and Asian-Pacific perspectives (2019).

He is Country Team Leader (Malta) of the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), sits as Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal on Ageing in Developing Countries, and his academic interests include older adult learning, Universities of the Third Age, social class dynamics, feminist gerontology, and critical gerontology.

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Professor of Health and Social Care Policy, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK

Shereen Hussein is a Professor of Health and Social Care Policy at the Department of Health Services Research and Policy (HSRP) at the LSHTM. She is a Co-Director of the PRUComm policy research unit. She is also an Honorary Professor at the University of Kent and King’s College London in the UK and the University of Southern Queensland in Australia.

Shereen is a demographer with expertise in labour-migration, sociology and economics. Her primary research revolves around ageing, family dynamics, migration and long-term care. Shereen has previously worked with the United Nations, the Population Council, the World Bank, and the League of Arab States. Her current research focuses on ageing demographics, long term care demand and migration within the UK and Europe and the implications on policy and practice.

Shereen has conducted extensive research on population ageing and its impact on long term care and health policy and practices in the UK, internationally and in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. She has contributed to recent United Nations’ policy response to ageing in the region through collaboration with UN-ESCWA and directly providing expert consultations to several countries in the region including Turkey, Oman and Egypt. Shereen leads many large research projects on ageing and long-term care in the UK and contributes to a large project addressing responses to dementia in developing countries STRiDE. Shereen is the founder and lead of the MENARAH network.