ESN Autumn Seminar 

ESN members and invited guests met in Stuttgart, Germany, last week for ESN’s Autumn Seminar. The seminar focused on how to design social and health services in order to assist older people in retaining and regaining independence and inclusion in later life. We were also conscious of the contribution of non-formal care to this agenda, notably through wide socio-economic policy-making, health promotion, volunteers and family carers.

Opening the seminar, ESN’s vice-chair, Christian Fillet observed that the EU tends to speak about ‘long-term care’. He said: “Perhaps we ought to be talking more about short-term care: a quick short burst of care, support, training to help a person regain independence and inclusion after an illness or a fall.”

That is exactly the approach that has been introduced in Muncipality of Fredericia in Denmark under the heading ‘life-long living’. It wants its older people with potential care needs to move from being ‘patients’ to being happy and independent. When an older person applies for personal care and practical help, they are offered 72 hours of intensive training over 31 days, focusing on essential tasks of daily living. Prevention and rehabilitation strategies from Portugal and the Netherlands focused on integrated social and health care and deploying ICT to meet older people’s real needs.

“It’s about livable communities for all ages,” said Daniel López Muñoz, in his report of a project by European regions about ‘declining, ageing and regional transformation’. He stressed the factors beyond social and health care that influence an older person’s quality of life. The valuable contribution of volunteering and health promotion completed this session on adapting to demographic change.

Carolyn Akintola, herself a wheelchair user with chronic health problems, shared a moving testimony of caring for her elderly mother “with a total of six hours help a week”. She admits it is hard at times, but “I wouldn't have it any other way.” She concluded: “Nothing that's worthwhile is ever easy. She's MY mum, and I should look after her.”

In the final hour of the seminar, delegates shared their ideas in small groups on three questions:

  • How do you design social/health services that favour prevention and rehabilitation?
  • How do you work with other actors to promote independence and inclusion in later life?
  • What sort of support do we need at EU level to achieve this?

Presentations and resources can be found here