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"Encouraging Healthy Aging"


As we move into December and Christmas, we are reminded of the joy and cheer that comes from goodwill to our fellowmen. The fatherly Santa Claus is an icon of such acts – supposedly falling down into chimneys to fill stockings with toys and goodies. The elderly Santa Claus is also a timely reminder of the International Year of Older Persons (IYOP).

The United Nations has designated 1999 as the IYOP. It has taken several years to plan this. It has even drawn up a set of principles – The UN Principles for Older Persons. Five principles are described: independence, participation, care, self-fulfillment and dignity for the older persons.

The United Nations encourages Governments to incorporate these principles in their national programme for older persons. Fundamentally, there is a need to develop and strengthen positive intergenerational relationships in the 21st century simply because there will be more and more older persons around. These relationships, vital for social cohesion, should be based on equity, solidarity and social justice for the old and the young.

The young and old must learn to understand each other’s differing aspirations and requirements. The old have the wisdom of their life experiences to pass on to the children of today and of coming generations. The young have the energy to put into action their aspirations.

The implications of healthy aging – the physical and mental characteristics of old age and their associated problems – need to be better understood. Much more research is required in order to reduce disability among older age groups. But for the time being, one is never too old or too young to pay attention to exercise, nutrition, keeping mentally active and adopting a health lifestyle as the preventive focus against disability in old age.

In this issue practical issues and concerns in developing geriatric services are discussed by Dr Philip Choo on Pages N8/9. In support of the IYOP, the SMA is organising educational activities centered on the theme of the older persons. To have a significant impact on the public’s consciousness on the issues on aging, a series of public seminars held on a monthly basis will precede the public forum in the SMA Medical Convention 1999. Topics for the Convention will range from healthy lifestyles to psychosocial issues of the older persons. Practical problems in the financial and legal aspects will be discussed to prepare anyone of us for the rainy days in the years to come. This will also be a good opportunity to educate the public on the Advance Medical Directive (AMD). To prepare the older persons for that inevitable first admission to the hospital when fallen ill, the public forum in the Medical Convention will educate the public on the recognition of symptoms of common illnesses and on when to go to the hospital to seek help.