Exploring the Northern Dimension

Bridging the gap between the evidence-based knowledge and implementation in promoting Healthy Ageing

The Northern Dimension Institute (NDI) organized the Northern Dimension Future Forum on Health: Healthy Ageing on 28 November 2018 in the Finnish Science Center, Heureka, in Vantaa, Finland. The event gathered researchers, professionals, civil servants and decision-makers to discuss the future challenges and opportunities in providing support, services and environments enhancing health and wellbeing among senior citizens. The event featured three knowledge arenas focusing on the topical themes of loneliness and mental health, managing healthy life-styles and preventing ageing related diseases, and creating environments supporting healthy aging. The forum was moderated by Ms. Charlotte Geerdink from Charly Speaks.

Professor Riitta Kosonen, Director for the Center for Markets in Transition, Aalto University, and the Lead Coordinator of the NDI opened the event with an overview of the role of NDI in the Northern Dimension policy and supporting the work of the four Northern Dimension Partnerships. In November 2018, NDI organizes four Northern Dimension Future Forums in close collaboration with the ND Partnerships focusing on the jointly selected topics. The work is planned to continue through a three-year-project on a Northern Dimension Think Tank.

ND Future Forum on Health 2018 Krol Kosonen web 2
Zbigniew Król (Deputy Minister of Health, Poland), Riitta Kosonen (NDI Lead Coordinator), Sari Raassima (MP, Finnish Parliament) and Ulla-Karin Nurm (NDPHS)

Director of the Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Wellbeing (NDPHS), Ms. Ulla-Karin Nurm expressed words of thanks to the NDI for organizing the event and the EC and Ministry for Foreign Affairs for financial support. The 15-year-collaboration in the NDPHS has proved truly effective with active participation of partners in the thematic expert groups, joint projects, events, publications, international networks. Enhancing healthy ageing is one of the key challenges in the future societies and ageing population is selected as a crosscutting theme for the NDPHS work.

In his keynote speech, Mr. Miika Mäki from the Family Federation of Finland, Country Team Operator for SHARE Finland project, highlighted the project objectives to provide evidence-based knowledge and multi-disciplinary approach towards population ageing. The SHARE database consists of face-to-face 80-minute interviews of more than 120 000 persons over 50 years with focus on health, socio-economic status and social and family networks in 27 European countries and Israel. The database is open to researchers free of charge. SHARE data is also utilized for political consulting at national and international level.

In the first Knowledge Arena, we heard presentations highlighting different approaches towards preventing loneliness and mental health among elderly. Professor Marja Vaarama from the University of Eastern Finland, and Consortium PI of the Inclusive Promotion of Health and Wellbeing (Promeq) project, Academy of Finland, introduced findings of applying inclusive methods for promoting health and wellbeing in selected target groups. Based on the project results, primary prevention, service counselling and promotion of health and wellbeing for elderly should entail meaningful activities to enhance self-efficacy, maintaining mobility, reduction of loneliness and support to healthy diet. Participative group-based care management may be a cost-effective way for promoting health and quality of life of elderly.

Researcher Anastasia Emelyanova from the University of Oulu showcased research-based evidence indicating that volunteering in old age is a key tool for promoting social inclusion, social cohesion and higher quality of life. Professor Andrey Soloviev, Director of the Institute of Mental Health; Chief, Department of Psychiatry & Clinical Psychology, Northern State Medical University in Russia, introduced approaches to diagnose mental health of elderly in primary care, training medical staff to assess mental health and involve family members in the care. Let us be active! –project was introduced by Ms. Aija Vecenane, Chief specialist, Project Manager from the Riga City Council, Latvia. Three cities Pärnu, Riga and Turku developed and piloted new volunteering activities for senior citizens including a volunteer call center in Riga. The project demonstrated that volunteering is one potential activity to enhance life satisfaction and social activeness among elderly.

In the lively moderated discussion with the commentators and audience, Mr. Zbigniew Król, Undersecretary of State (Deputy Minister) of Health in Poland highlighted ongoing efforts in Poland to enhance lifetime healthy lifestyles. To this end, research and sharing of good experiences can provide tools for healthy ageing strategies and organizing local care for elderly. Ms. Sari Raassima, Member of the Finnish Parliament and the Social Affairs and Health Committee, underlined the role of research to provide consensus statements on what are the most cost-effective approaches for social and health service development, prevention, and late prevention. There is a need for new ideas and solutions for producing and financing elderly services with equal access for all in the near future.

In the second part of the forum, speakers focused on approaches to support elderly in maintaining healthy lifestyles to prevent type 2 diabetes and dementia. According to Ms. Jaana Lindström, Research Manager from the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland, StopDia project with over 85 000 identified persons at risk of type 2 diabetes in Finland, demonstrates that type 2 diabetes is preventable. To this end, three level of actions are needed: identification of individuals at risk, lifestyle interventions and environmental interventions stimulating healthy choices. Dr. Shireen Sindi, Researcher from the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society (NVS) at Karolinska Institutet, Aging Research Center and Division of Clinical Geriatrics in Sweden, introduced findings and further simulations of the Finger project focusing on developing and testing multi-domain interventions to prevent dementia. Based on the Finger results, multi-domain interventions including healthy diet, exercise, cognitive training and vascular risk monitoring are effective and feasible with tailored interventions for specific at-risk profiles. Dr. Eva Barrett, Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Research Fellow from Galway National University of Ireland, introduced results of the Mario project on developing and testing caring service robots for elderly care in Ireland, UK and Italy. Mario is selected as one of the top ICT influential active and healthy ageing projects in Europe.

Commentators, Ms. Anna Brooks from the National Board of Health and Welfare, Sweden, and Ms. Anja Noro, Research Professor, Project Manager from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of Finland, appreciated the value of the research and hopeful solutions provided for preventing and managing the most pressing ageing related diseases. At the same time, it was acknowledged that one of the key challenges is to adopt and apply the knowledge into the practice. This requires close collaboration and inclusion of the authorities, professionals and staff at different levels together with patients. When developing innovative ICT solutions, the goal is to develop solutions to assist the care staff, not to replace them.

In the last Knowledge Arena, the presentations and discussion were devoted to developing age-friendly environments supporting healthy ageing. Ms. Tiina Tambaum, Researcher, Project Manager from the Estonian Institute for Population Studies introduced findings of projects on creating and piloting intergenerational practices, new ways to engage elderly and young. Professor Elena Golubeva from the Northern (Arctic) Federal University in Russia highlighted foster families for elderly as new social services developed and in use in Russia. Ms. Tatiana Zadorkina, Deputy Chief Doctor from the Medical prevention and rehabilitation center for Kaliningrad region and Ms. Olga Andreeva, Deputy Manager from the Federal Research Institute for Health in Russia, gave an overview of the ongoing projects to adopt new approaches and technologies in medical and social care for people over 60 years in Kaliningrad region in Russia. Professor Liisa Häikiö from the University of Tampere in Finland introduced the human needs approach to provide evidence-based knowledge for urban governance and planning on diversity of needs of elderly with care needs.

In the moderated discussion, Ms. Mari Patronen, Senior Advisor, Services for Elderly from the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, Mr. Jyrki Kasvi, Member of the Finnish Parliament, underlined that research and lessons learnt in the concrete activities are most valuable to support policy- and decision-making. There is still need to understand better how technological innovations and digitalization can be utilized in developing user-centered and cost-effective elderly care services. In urban governance and planning, tailored human needs approach can provide new and innovative ways to design housing and age-friendly urban environments. In the concluding remarks, Ms. Ulla-Karin Nurm, Director of the NDPHS reviewed the key discussion points and underlined need to continue regular knowledge sharing, discussions and people-to-people contacts between researchers and decision-makers to tackle the pressing challenges of healthy ageing in the ND countries.

ND Future Forum on Health 2018 audience 2 web
Audience enjoyed the lively discussions

The event was organized by the Northern Dimension Institute together with the Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Wellbeing and financed by the European Commission/DG NEAR and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

The Northern Dimension Institute is a an open university network, which is coordinated by the Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland, as the Lead Coordinator in cooperation with the Northern (Arctic) Federal University and the St Petersburg State University of Economics in Russia.

Programme of the event can be found here (pdf).

Presentations from the event are available below (pdfs):

Keynote speech
Transforming the Challenges of Population Ageing into Opportunities with the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), Mr. Miika Mäki, Researcher, Country Team Operator for SHARE Finland, the Family Federation of Finland

Knowledge Arena 1: Approaches towards preventing loneliness and mental health among elderly
Quality of life, healthy ageing and loneliness - what can be done? Ms. Marja Vaarama, Professor, University of Eastern Finland, Strategic Research Program on Health, Academy of Finland
Volunteering as a means of social inclusion in old age: The Arctic context, Ms. Anastasia Emelyanova, Researcher, University of Oulu
Prevention of mental disorders among elderly: how to actively involve older persons and their relatives in this primary and secondary prevention, Mr. Andrey Soloviev, Professor, Director, Institute of Mental Health; Chief, Department of Psychiatry & Clinical Psychology, Northern State Medical University, Russia
Let us be active! -project, Ms. Aija Vecenane, Chief specialist, Project Manager, Riga City Council, Latvia

Knowledge Arena 2: Supporting active and healthy lifestyles
Approaches to empower individuals to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, Ms. Jaana Lindström, Research Manager, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland, Strategic Research Program on Health, Academy of Finland
Multidomain interventions to prevent dementia. Dr. Shireen Sindi, Researcher, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society (NVS) at Karolinska Institutet, Aging Research Center and Division of Clinical Geriatrics, Sweden
Managing active and healthy aging with use of caring service robots – Mario project, Dr. Eva Barrett, Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Galway National University of Ireland

Knowledge Arena 3: Creating environments supporting healthy aging
Intergenerational practice as a tool for improving ageing societies, Ms. Tiina Tambaum, Researcher, Project Manager, Estonian Institute for Population Studies, Estonia
Innovations in developing social services in Russia: focus on circumpolar areas, Ms. Elena Golubeva, Professor, Northern (Arctic) Federal University, Russia
Organizational technologies of medical and social care for people 60+ based on individual needs, Ms. Tatiana Zadorkina, Deputy Chief Doctor, Medical prevention and rehabilitation center for Kaliningrad region, Russia and Ms. Olga Andreeva, Deputy manager, Federal Research Institute for Health Organization and Informatics, Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, Russia
Human needs approach to ageing in urban environments, Ms. Liisa Häikiö, Professor, University of Tampere, Finland, Strategic Research Program on Urbanising Society, Academy of Finland

Tags: Health & Social Wellbeing

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