Healthy Ageing: WHO – Setting Priorities for Research

Global networks on ageing and longevity are actively engaged in communications, as we head into the fall of 2017, social media and e-news streaming all sorts of messages. Last week in my blog post, I referred to news of the Ryerson National Institute on Ageing (NIA) holding a one-day comprehensive conference in Toronto on November 23rd – Envisioning Ageing in Place.

Within hours after that post, the International Federation on Ageing sent a notification of the World Health Organization Global Online Consultation on Research Priority Setting for Healthy Ageing. It is an open public consultation which was encouraging to see, because all too often you read about academic researchers doing their thing and are often left wondering, how can a non-academic with a determined interest in the field of aging and longevity contribute?

Taking this as an opportunity, I completed the survey. This was no ordinary tick off the boxes exercise. Without getting into the details, there are a number of sections with sample research questions covering several topics for research priorities on the macro subject, Healthy Ageing with three WHO definitions:

Healthy Ageing: The process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older age. Rather than considering health in older age from the perspective of the presence or absence of disease, the WHO Healthy Ageing model is built around a person’s functioning.

Functional ability: The degree to which people can be or do what they value. It is determined by the intrinsic capacity of the individual, the physical and social environments he or she inhabits and the interaction between the individual and these environmental characteristics

Intrinsic capacity: All the individual-level attributes that someone can draw on at any point in time in order to be or do the things they value.

If you choose to participate, you are asked to submit two new suggestions for research questions that might be considered for inclusion in the project. What made this WHO survey something beyond the usual was the fact that you could not progress to the next topic area without providing your two questions.

Suddenly I became an academic; developing questions with extra think time, which made it a lot more engaging in the process. Even though it took me longer to complete the survey than expected, I did sign off on the request to be included in ongoing communications, and hopefully, I will be contacted to further contribute. The deadline for this WHO Survey is September 30th.

While the WHO is busy with this survey, it is also holding a pre-conference workshop, part of the upcoming Canadian Association on Gerontology 46th annual conference – October 19-21 in Winnipeg. This workshop formats around the initial World Report on Ageing and Health from 2015.

No doubt, the point of this 2017 on line survey is to help update perspectives since the initial report, which as with all things in a fast-paced world, needs to keep up with changes to global affairs that influence the ageing experience; and that matters at all ages and life stages,while we must not at the same time forget that ageing is not experienced or equally supported by social systems around the world.

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