“The World Health Organization defines Active Aging as the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security to improve the quality of life for people as they age.
The three fundamental pillars of active aging are health, participation and security, with health making it harder to participate, lack of participation, involvement and social recognition undermining health and encouraging depression, isolation and illness, and safety and security being fundamental, in preventing accidents, falls and fractures, in preventing abuse, violence and mistreatment, and in preventing the disregard, abandonment and marginalization that many people unfortunately still suffer, with devastating consequences on their health, self-esteem and self-fulfillment.
Older people, for their experience, knowledge and contributions, are indispensable to society and families, and we cannot squander this enormous gain in healthy life years achieved in the last century.
Increasing the average life expectancy in good health and independence for as long as possible must be seen as a goal to be reached and an opportunity at any age and is one of the greatest challenges of our time, so that aging is a positive experience and people and decision-makers invest in human potential for physical, social and mental well-being throughout the course of life.
Promoting health through regular physical activity, stimulating mental activity, eating a diet richer in fruit, vegetables, fiber and fish, with little salt and sugar, without the abuse of alcohol or other harmful substances, and without tobacco, along with a balanced, fraternal, charitable and satisfying life with affection and social relationships, and appropriate management of the stresses of daily life, will add years to one’s life and quality of life to the years that are gained.
If being healthy means physical, mental and social well-being, the word active has made a huge step forward in the dynamic way we view older people, it refers to continued participation in social, economic, cultural, spiritual, religious issues and recognition by society as full citizens, not just the ability to be ﬁsically active or part of the workforce.
People should not be considered as “inactive” or “unproductive” just because they retire. On the contrary, they should be stimulated and given opportunities to maintain themselves in a context of interdependence, complementarity and solidarity between generations, which goes far beyond more or less reciprocal exchanges of goods.
The World Health Organization’s concept of “active aging” seeks to convey a broader message than “healthy aging,” and to recognize, that in addition to age and health care, many other individual, family, social, environmental, climatic, developmental, or conflict factors influence and determine how individuals and populations age.
Older people are very different from each other and are not just passive agents and recipients of care. They have a right to their individuality, to respect and consideration of their will, and they are an enormous force for support, for providing care to younger and older people, and for social and economic balance and sustainability.
Most chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and others, such as diabetes and increased cholesterol, are largely preventable through healthy, skill-promoting lifestyle habits and living conditions throughout the individual’s life, socially, and in the community.
Living longer with quality of life, without physical or mental illness, can go a long way toward offsetting rising pension and retirement costs, as well as social assistance and health care costs, and contribute more time to government revenues.
Cultural values and traditions greatly determine how a society respects older people and the aging process.
The Portuguese Foundation of Cardiology, by dedicating the Month of May, Month of the Heart, this year 2014, to active aging, intends to collaborate in drawing attention to the need for this cultural evolution in the face of population aging, and to remember that cardiovascular diseases are not an inevitable consequence of aging but can largely be prevented or delayed, by our daily attitudes, by society in the way it treats its elders, and by the powers that be, by the ability to understand the short, medium, and long-term impact that political strategies, or the lack thereof, can have on the human species.
The prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of cardiovascular diseases, along with knowledge about the biophysiology of aging, should be a practice of our daily life, from school, to universities and to the practice of work commitments, inclusion, development and cooperation at all ages and with all social actors.
May this month of the heart bring us a greater awareness that it is worth investing in the progress, development and preservation of the human being and the human species, in its globality and specificity, in which a GOOD HEART always brings more and better years of life.”