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Caring for older people in age-friendly communities

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The European population is rapidly ageing due to low fertility rates and higher life expectancy. Almost 50% of persons in the EU aged 65 and over reported long-term restrictions in daily activities, and more than two thirds reported physical or sensory functional limitations[1].

As the proportion and total number of older people increases, health and care systems should adapt to address symptoms or disability associated with diseases, and to promote the development and maintenance of functional ability that enables well-being later on in life. “There needs to be a paradigm shift in terms of how we care for older people and how we innovate care by understanding better what their needs are and how to ensure their independence, empowerment and inclusion,” states Mette Petersen, Director of the Red Cross EU Office.

A German Red Cross nurse looks after an older person in his apartment and measures his blood pressure, March 2017. © Sibylle Kölmel/German Red Cross

Older people remain one of the most vulnerable and excluded groups around the world.  The Red Cross runs many programmes and services for older people that promote healthy ageing and protect their dignity. Across Europe, National Red Cross Societies work for the provision of health and care services ranging from promotion, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care. Their work also focuses on psychological support for older people and their social inclusion by promoting leisure activities, valuing their experiences and skills, and teaching digital skills that can encourage more exchange with their families and friends. This is done by ensuring the delivery of community-led, people-centered interventions that account for the social, economic, and environmental determinants of health across a person’s life course.

The Red Cross EU Office is launching a new publication, “Red Cross Approach: Caring for older people in age-friendly communities”, which showcases good practices, challenges and lessons learned by 17 National Red Cross Societies in Europe on healthy ageing processes and long-term care services. The publication describes how National Red Cross Societies design, implement, coordinate, and follow up activities and programmes to continuously improve services for older people and provide solutions for helping them to remain in their familiar environment.

The French Red Cross organises different types of activities in their ‘Residential establishment for dependent elderly people’, April 2022. © Alex Bonnemaison/EHPAD Florence Nightingale in Argenteuil French Red Cross. 

This publication gathers the key elements to care for older people as identified during thematic workshops: the role volunteerism can play to identify and respond to older people’s needs; the opportunity to create age-friendly communities that contribute to older people’s independent living and social inclusion; and the provision of home services that enhance older people to stay in their familiar environment. In the context of the European Commission’s open consultations regarding the upcoming European Care Strategy, the publication also includes key recommendations. These guidelines  focus on the identification of quality standards for care services and the recognition and support for the workforce and informal carers, also taking into consideration that women provide most of the care.

The demand for high-quality long-term care for older people is rising and will continue increase in the next years considering the demographic trend in Europe. The European Care Strategy aims to respond through a strategic and comprehensive approach to care. This requires the commitment of Member States to achieve what it is stated in principle 18 of the European Pillar of Social Rights: ‘Everyone has the right to affordable long-term care services of good quality, in particular homecare and community-based services’.

[1] Eurostat: Population statistics at regional level [website]. Brussels: European Commission; 2019 (https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat, accessed 12 November 2019)

On 13 October 2022 at 10:00-12:00, the Red Cross EU Office is organizing an event on caring for older people in age-friendly communities, hosted by MEP Frances Fitzgerald in the European Parliament. Please find here the link to register and the agenda for the event. 

For media inquiries, please contact Sara Garcia de Blas on: sara.garcia@redcross.eu or +32 2 235 06 96

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