Economía · 02 March 2021

Sénior friendly

Silver Economy is to put the focus, from public authorities and private companies, on the incontrovertible fact of longevity which, very specifically in Spain, forces us to consider (when defining policies, product ranges and services, in all activities) that there are many elderly people with specific needs. Their families also have needs conditioned by longevity.  

In a long-lived society, with many senior citizens (the European Commission estimates that in Europe, in 2060, one in three people will be over 65 years old and, in addition, the UN, in its report 'World Population Prospects', predicts that the number of older people (60 years and over) will have doubled by 2050), it is essential to be "friendly" with age. 

Senior Friendly means showing a "positive ageism" and, applied to people, entities, products and services, projects, etc., working on the attractiveness and promises (later fulfilled) of empathy with the elderly. In short, to make a wink to the elderly of complicity, affinity, generation of trust and promise of well-being based on understanding.

In general, the objectives are, on the one hand, to provide a healthy life (through the practice of exercise, healthy diets, routines that break stress, etc.) to seniors and, on the other hand, to facilitate their life in community, through their integration in intergenerational groups that promote and support these good practices. It is not about building ghettos, but intergenerational environments, where people, regardless of their age, live together, exercise, find situations conducive to making friends and living together, going through life together, without ageism, without prejudice.  It is necessary to promote solidarity between generations and to promote the involvement of the elderly in social life, at all levels: this is senior friendly. 

At present, there is already a senior-friendly certification for entities granted by Saluus.  It is the only international quality certification that makes excellence with the elderly visible and is based on the WHO pillars of active ageing, with the support of the International Aging to the Future Association. Designed for public and private entities able to face the challenges of the 21st century and the power of the silver economy, it allows companies to be valued for their ethics and good work with older people.

What does it mean to be age-friendly? From the point of view of entities, people, projects or products and services, there are enormous opportunities because it is about:

  • To offer seniors the possibility of enjoying an environment without barriers (architectural, obstacles, impediments of any kind), full of comforts, facilities of all kinds, which will allow them to have a long and happy life. 
  • Promote the pleasure and intensive enjoyment of life. If it is an urban environment, to enjoy the city (and the exercise of citizenship), providing it with intelligence and accessible, usable, convenient and comfortable technology that facilitates life, optimises resources, reduces costs and generates positive urban experiences. A city is said to be senior friendly when it is more human and has a positive impact on its senior citizens. 
  • Make everything accessible in the public and private sectors, working to ensure that establishments and productive units of private enterprise can generate total accessibility and comfort for senior citizens, as well as adapting their offer to the needs of the senior public.
  • To provide the city with a life where socialisation is more appealing than individualism, eradicating ageism and promoting social inclusion by the rest of society in the different public and private spheres and services. It is about achieving "social longevity". We are all a day older at the end of the day; socialisation has to be age-friendly and foster contexts of intergenerational enjoyment. Ghettos must be avoided; it is necessary to work from an integrating perspective, generationally speaking, of all social and cultural activities.

In general, the aim is to achieve the overall wellbeing of older people in all areas: 

  • Dietary sphere: a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and legumes should be promoted and encouraged. Meat, fish and dairy products can be consumed, but in smaller quantities. In addition, moderation in the consumption of alcoholic beverages should be encouraged (we know that a very moderate intake of wine is not only not harmful, but may even contribute to longevity). And it is not only the food that is important, but also the way we eat. "Hara hachi bu" is a Confucian precept which means that we should not eat until we are full, but only up to 80% of our capacity.
  • Health sphere: interoperability should be prioritised. All medical and health administrations must cooperate to improve prevention and care for the elderly. Everyone, but with emphasis on the fragile and vulnerable. Senior Friendly means working in areas such as chronicity, dependency and healthcare so that there is always an adequate number of doctors (primary care and specialists), the presence of preventive healthcare programmes, etc. Work must also be done on projects that encourage physical activity and the performance of daily tasks that reduce sedentary lifestyles. In short, the autonomy and independence of the elderly.

    Loneliness is another 21st century epidemic. Senior Friendly is to promote communication of and with the elderly, in all aspects of life; interpersonal communication, communication via the media, technologies and social networks and any means and instrument to fight against loneliness.

    It is also important to reduce stress, a factor closely linked to almost all age-related diseases. Reducing stress means interrupting the normal rhythm of our routine to make way for other activities that are part of normal social habits. For example, napping in Mediterranean societies, praying in the case of Adventists, celebrating the Okinawan women's tea ceremony, and so on.

  • Psychological sphere: senior friendly is to put the positive aspects of longevity at the centre (wisdom, calmness, the old age when one sees life in a different perspective) and to take the preparation for death in a natural way. 
  • Social sphere: this is key. Senior friendly means working, as I said before, on the diversity, integrity and dignity of older people. All from an intergenerational perspective. Senior Friendly will be to design interactive channels that promote good lifestyle habits, social interaction and communication between generations.
  • Urban sphere: I mentioned earlier the importance of designing a city/locality that is accessible to all ages. Benchmarking with other cities and organisations is desirable in order to learn positive practices in relation to ageing.

    It is necessary to evolve from the idea of housing to the idea of home, which implies that housing should be accessible and affordable, that aid should be allocated to housing repairs to make them flexible, that smart homes should be built for private use, coliving or cohousing, that home automation should be implemented, that residences should be modernised, etc. 

    Within this field, mobility and transport have enormous opportunities and challenges. Senior Friendly means having comfortable transport for the elderly, at affordable prices, etc. 

  • Care sphere: senior friendly will be to have networks of support services for care provision at home and in the community, and the availability of home care, meals at home and day care for adults.
  • Safety and security sphere: senior friendly is to develop emergency plans that take into account the needs of older residents. The development of age tech is key. 
  • Services sphere: in both the public and private sectors, senior friendly must be promoted in commerce, tourism and in all services. The Administration must be adapted: people, systems, technologies, processes and procedures. There must be people specialised in caring for the elderly, which is why a pro-senior employment plan is needed in administrations, as well as professional training. Advice on matters such as the digital society, legal, patrimonial or financial aspects is fundamental. 
  • Technological sphere: the development of age tech will bring numerous advances in tele-assistance, for example, in favour of socialisation and against loneliness or in the cultural and content fields. 
  • Economic sphere: the future lies in linking silver policies with trade support policies. 
  • Cultural sphere: it is essential to promote culture, training and the enrichment of the intellectual life of older people. Work should be done on programmes that promote social activities and intergenerational contact, such as places of worship, libraries, museums, schools and universities.
  • Leisure sphere: senior friendly will be to have plans focused on sports activities, online interaction, meetings (when the pandemic is over)... In this area, projects focused on the appropriate provision of outdoor areas, green spaces, pavements, footpaths, greenways, etc., have great opportunities.
  • Employment sphere: Let's not forget that there are seniors who, with their faculties in an ideal state, want to work. Therefore, Senior Friendly will be to promote senior talent, either in the jobs that people have and do not want to give up, or to generate jobs that make them feel useful (and earn money, of course), perhaps linked to volunteering, etc. In short, to promote senior talent.
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