CENIE · 25 May 2020

COVID-19: the urgent rush of the Silver Economy

The provisional damage count of the COVID 19 pandemic makes it clear that the seams of the welfare state have been broken.

Spain (as of 9 May 2020), the number of deaths has reached 26,478 and, specifically, the number of people over 65 who have died is 9,478. In Portugal, the figures are less terrible (1,126 deaths, with cases in 14% of homes). In Portugal, the figures are less terrible (1,126 deaths, with cases in 14% of homes). Perhaps we should think about what has caused two neighbouring countries to behave so differently: while in Spain 0.45% of the population has been infected and 11.5% of those infected have died, in Portugal 0.24% of our neighbours have been infected and 3.9% of those infected have died. 

What is really relevant is that statistics are governed by the law of large numbers and, in statistical terms, life expectancy and the trend towards an ageing population will hardly be affected.

Every misfortune hides some advantage. In my opinion, the health crisis will accelerate Silver Economy's initiatives. Strategically, it will have three consequences, at the macro level and in the short term: 

Firstly, it seems clear that "the social question" and the situation of the elderly in particular will be on the table, at the centre of the political and social debate. Any reconstruction pact and any strategy needs to look at the economy from a social market perspective, with strong public-private cooperation that is oriented towards the long term.

Secondly, I clearly see that the Silver Economy and the business orientation towards taking advantage of the opportunity provided by ageing will accelerate in the coming years, months perhaps. 

The third consequence is that health will be at the centre of everything, and the optimisation of health processes will be strongly supported by technology: telemedicine, teleassistance, age tech' are concepts that will gain strength in the immediate future.

In terms of tactics, I predict that over the next two years the most relevant aspects we will see are:

  • That loneliness has manifested itself as another epidemic. Fourth generation tele-assistance projects will be undertaken in which proactivity and socialization will be key elements. Artificial intelligence, big data and the internet of things will be elements that will work in perfect harmony to combat loneliness and promote intelligent socialization, "looking for people to meet like-minded people", combating both fragility and loneliness and providing shelter for the elderly. 
  • Older people want to be at home and, because of the structure of the socio-health system (imbalance between supply and demand), it is precisely the right thing to do. It is necessary to create all kinds of comforts and facilities to cover the elderly at home.
  • That the sector of the residences, so affected, is going to be refounded. It needs to react urgently to the crisis in its reputation. And not only with an image campaign:
  • It needs to medicalise the centres (in the back office, because, although it may seem a contradiction in terms, we must ensure that they do not look like hospitals, but like charming places full of life).
  • It needs to review service contracts so that individuals and families know exactly what they are contracting for.
  • It needs public-private collaboration, since it is clear that coordination is needed between primary health care, public geriatric services (which need to be strengthened for demographic reasons and because their weakness has been demonstrated) and medical care in private and/or subsidised centres. In short, there is a need for so-called interoperability and it will be necessary to organize it using technologies, including blockchain.

Progress will be made towards a more humane model of residences. Today many people are going to die. It is necessary to repaint the picture and fill it with bright colours: to make it feel like going to live, to share, to socialise, to live the last years of life to the full, with security, protection, peace of mind that one is well cared for and with socialisation and intergenerational relationships at the heart of the organisation.

In my opinion, the voluntary work and the focal action of the oenegés on the elderly will go further.

Political agreements. Social collaboration. Rethinking pensions, encouraging savings and private capitalisation systems. Trying to find joint solutions to the low population density (Spain is empty) and ageing, with creative solutions (the example of Pescueza, can be a reference). Cooperation between private initiative and public administration. These are the elements that must be tackled within the framework of a positive ageism and social recognition of the role of the elderly, thanks to which we enjoy a Welfare State (which we will now think about strengthening first and then reinforcing) which, out of decency, cannot abandon them.

Under the framework of: Programa Operativo Cooperación Transfronteriza España-Portugal
Sponsors: Fundación General de la Universidad de Salamanca Fundación del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas Direção Geral da Saúde - Portugal Universidad del Algarve - Portugal