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Community engagement at the forefront of WHO Global Forum on Innovation for Ageing Populations

17 Nov 2015

Technology is vital to tackling older people's issues (c) Frédéric Dupoux/HelpAge International

Last month in Kobe, Japan, 200 policymakers, practitioners and activists committed to healthy ageing gathered for the Second World Health Organization (WHO) Global Forum on Innovations for Ageing Populations.

The discussions, which involved a good representation from the HelpAge network, covered a wide range of topics surrounding ageing, with a particular emphasis on community engagement, the role of new technologies, particularly in developing metrics for data collection, and the importance of exploring new partnerships.

The forum provided many opportunities for open dialogues, sharing of global data and statistics, and exploring the work at community level led by older people.

Data collection

Of particular concern were gaps in ageing data and the challenges this presents. The forum looked at methodologies involving innovative technological tools that would help bridge this.

The importance of the involvement of older people's communities in collecting data came up again and again at various plenary and break-out sessions, as well as the question of how older people would directly benefit from the collected information. With population ageing occurring at a rapid pace around the world, keeping up with data collection will be a critical challenge.

Role of new technologies

Across the fields of data collection, health education and assistive medical devices, new technologies continue to emerge. These advances must be made more accessible and affordable for older populations.

The forum addresses challenges in achieving this, particularly around delivery to remote areas - an innovative distribution mechanism would need to be developed.

Community engagement and ground level interventions

It was fantastic that the forum gave ground-level organisations and practitioners the opportunity to share some best practices on older people-led community development and healthy ageing, and this included several representatives of the HelpAge network. It was truly heartening to hear their perspectives and the challenges they face.

To me, this involvement with communities is the most important issue we need to take forward from the forum. Yet we must also look at possibilities for new partnerships and harness innovative technologies to ensure healthy and productive ageing in the future.

The recent launch of WHO's World Report on Ageing and Health and the inclusion of healthy ageing in the Sustainable Development Goals are crucial milestones.

As the goals are shaped into an implementation plan, the forum's very timely discussions contribute to the feasibility of future action on healthy ageing worldwide.

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Author profile

Prakash Tyagi
Country: India
Job title: Director, GRAVIS

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.