Bizkaia –the host territory of the upcoming AAL Forum 2018 which will be held between 24 and 26 September- is a clear example of healthy living for older persons and of how the involvement of the different public authorities and social stakeholders may foster the application of public-private strategies to extend the active life of older persons and prevent/delay dependency in that segment.
Certainly, Bizkaia has firsthand experience of the reversal of the population pyramid that is already affecting western societies (and hitting European societies harder). At present, one out of every 5 of the province’s inhabitants (i.e., around 240,000 people) are over 65 years old. Furthermore, the majority of Bizkaia citizens can aspire to live to over 80, according to the latest official statistics.
In this scenario, Bizkaia Provincial Council (Government of Bizkaia) has long been committed to integral healthy and active ageing policies and at the same time has sought to anticipate current problems in order to improve the quality of life of older persons.
All those plans are set out in the Strategic Plan for Older Persons (with numerous actions envisaged until 2020), in order to address the new population pyramid and ensure that older persons have healthy and active ageing plans in place. In fact, Bizkaia is the first non-state authority to have embraced the Active Ageing Index as a tool to monitor advances in public policies linked to demographic change.
This plan has put Bizkaia at the fore along with Sweden and Denmark as one of the best European territories to age actively. The idea is for Bizkaia to be in 200 a territory recognised by its citizens (but also throughout Europe) as an ‘Excellent territory to age’.
Working with local councils
Another of Bizkaia’s differential strategic points is its working at local level to review policies from the age perspective. In fact, twenty or so municipalities in Bizkaia are also supported by the Provincial Council in this field. They account for nearly 58% of the population of Bizkaia, 25% higher than two years ago and already close to the 70% target set for 2020.
The final key is the ongoing work with older people’s organisations on policies that affect seniors. Bizkaia Provincial Council has evolved its discourse from the “doing for” concept to “doing WITH”. In this case, older persons are co-players in this process, represented in the Bizkaia Older People Council (co-player roles of those groups). The idea of being underpinned by this collective is to work together to develop the mechanisms to review every type of policy from an age perspective.
Population ageing, explained Sergio Murillo, General Manager for Promoting Personal Autonomy at Bizkaia Provincial Council, is quickly accelerating worldwide. In his opinion, this will have to be addressed in a way aimed at all sectors “because older people are influenced not only by the systems that provide long-term health and care, but also by the environments where they live and have lived all their lives”.
This official stressed that the Government of Bizkaia “is firmly committed to developing new political responses to improve the independent life expectancy and technologies will play a key role in that improvement”. In his opinion, a completely new sector is going to be created in the coming years and which will focus on meeting the needs of this ageing population, including the AAL technologies “and Bizkaia plans to play a role in that opportunity”.
In this regard, Sergio Murillo stressed that the demographic change will shape Europe’s prosperity. “Bizkaia is no exception”. “Safeguarding the prosperity of Europe and of Bizkaia,” concluded Sergio Murillo, “requires construction endeavours proportional to the size of the challenge. Bizkaia Silver Week and the AAL 2018 Forum within it will direct the global debate and will drive us to achieve a new inclusive prosperity”.