In a new U.K. study, researchers at the University of Liverpool and Newcastle University set out to investigate the impact of programs designed to promote respect and social inclusion among older people living in the community.
The study defines social inclusion as the opportunity for older people to cultivate social relationships, have access to resources and feel part of the community in which they live. Respect, in turn, refers to positive attitudes and behaviors towards the elderly, so that they may feel accepted, valued, and appreciated by the community regardless of age.
“Initiatives that promote social inclusion and respect for older people have the potential to significantly improve people’s health and wellbeing,” said study co-author Dr. Nicole Valtorta, research associate at Newcastle University’s Institute of Health and Society.
The World Health Organization has been promoting “age-friendly environments,” which help support and encourage older people to live independently and in good health for longer, and can also optimize health and well-being for the wider community.
Age-friendly environments are seen as an important way in which societies can meet the combined challenges of population aging and urbanization, two trends that place significant pressure on health and social care services and have the potential to threaten the sustainability of welfare systems worldwide.
For the study, the researchers reviewed 25 years’ worth of international research papers to identify the range of initiatives promoting respect and social inclusion evaluated to date. The focus of the review was on initiatives that target older people (aged 60+ years) living in the community in high and upper-middle income countries.
The findings show that music and singing, intergenerational initiatives, art and culture, and multi-activity interventions (e.g. health promotion) promoted the well-being, subjective health, quality of life, and physical and mental health of older people.
The findings suggest that these initiatives benefited older people’s health in a variety of ways, such as by making them feel valued and fostering meaningful relationships with others.
“In current efforts to promote age-friendly environments, we hope that these findings will support local public health practitioners, policy makers, charities, and researchers to carry out and evaluate initiatives promoting respect and social inclusion that are likely to improve older people’s health and well-being,” said Dr. Sara Ronzi.
The study, published in the journal Systematic Reviews, is funded by the National Institute for Health Research School for Public Health Research.
Source: University of Liverpool