Active and Healthy Ageing in Slovenia

Introduction

Name: Active and Healthy Ageing in Slovenia

Acronym: AHA.SI

Framework organization: National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ)

Partners: Inštitut za ekonomska raziskovanja (IER), Inštitut Emonicum (Emonicum), Skupnost socialnih zavodov Slovenije (SSZS), Inštitut RS za socialno varstvo (IRSSV), Zveza društev upokojencev Slovenije (ZDUS), EuroHealthNet (EHNet)

Project Leader: dr. Mojca Gabrijelčič Blenkuš

Project duration: 1. march 2014 to 28. february 2016

Financing: European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (DG EMPL)

Co-financing: Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities and Ministry of Health

Slovenia, a picture of an ageing, long-living society

The Slovenian society is, even within the frame of Europe, the continent with the oldest population, an example of a fast-aging society. The delightful increase of births in last years will most likely decrease in the future since the number of girls is low for a continuous higher birth rate in coming decades. In addition, the age of women bearing their first child, is increasing. An immigration balance cannot be expected, if it remains on the existent level. The high average of educational level reduces the number of children in families as well. In such circumstances demographic change will be more intensive and number of the elderly in Slovenian urban and country surroundings will be even higher.

The position of the elderly in the Slovenian society is important not only because of their growing number, but also from the social and political influence’s point of view. They own majority of flats, houses and other real estates. The membership of the influential National association of pensioners ZDUS (Zveza Društev Upokojencev Slovenije) surpasses 10% of the whole population. Voices of older voters surpass a quarter of the whole voting body. Considering all such conditions the future influence of the elderly in the Slovenian society will be even stronger and country might as such be a possible future picture of European countries in which longevity is progressing with a low birth rate.

Slovenian society has been traditionally socially oriented with a high level of health and social security, which influences values and behavioral patterns of their citizens. As in most European developed societies, the elderly of Slovenia have been included in numerous forms of voluntary activities, family guardianship’s and informal care. Quite often they financially support families of their children. Many associations of the elderly are combined with sport, entertainment and other forms of social inclusion. The increase of CNCD is accompanied by numerous associations of patients with chronic conditions; there is almost no chronic condition without organized patients. All mentioned reflects high level of health and social culture as well as high life potential of the Slovenian elderly and represents a good basis for new strategic approaches in regard to their healthy and active lifestyle. A dense network of social institutions in the country has a huge infrastructural, professional, organizational and experiential potential, which is however predominantly concentrated within institutions themselves. The possibility to mediate their knowledge and experiences to the elderly in surrounding areas would be a decisive step forward in regard to their healthier and active life; e.g. health literacy, get ready for the old age, falls prevention, healthy feeding habits, up-keeping of strength, mobility etc.

In recent years Slovenia has been hit by serious economic and social crisis. Existent circumstances are accompanied by higher governmental taxation, which consequently reduces the accessibility of goods, health and social services. In such a way the social gap, which was traditionally narrow, is widening. Older unemployed workers cannot find any other job and try to retire in spite of insufficient retirement age. With lower pensions they represent candidates for future poverty. Prevailing economic understanding of the society in which shrinking number of working citizens cares for growing cohorts of retirees, causes intergenerational tensions. Instead of early retirements a prolongation of the retirement age is a necessity, which will improve intergenerational coexistence. Normally crises are accompanied by a decrease of health and social determinants. It looks like that crisis in Slovenia does not influence behavioral habits yet, since indicators of expected life years at birth, healthy life years and others remain rather high and longevity is still progressing. In case however that crisis will not soon be overcome negative turning point of indicators can be expected.

As a member country of the European Union is Slovenia following its strategic orientations in regard to age and aging, which should be an active and healthy period of life. According to the WHO it is not limited to the old age only, which extends the meaning of longevity to all periods of life. Healthy longevity is an enormous cultural and historical achievement with great potentials. Its existence has to be supported by good functioning of all public systems, political culture, social tolerance and peace. In Slovenian and several other country politics longevity has not been accepted as such yet and many of its exciting challenges, which could positively influence open social questions, remain ignored. Conditions and values of longevity are incompatible with ideological intolerance, political or religious practices of hate, homicide and wars. The Slovenian existent politics is – supported by media -split into right and left wing in an unhealthy, intolerant manner. That’s why in accordance with demographic changes new political approaches are necessary, together with redefinitions of ethical values in our everyday lives. As message of health, is message of longevity of deep moral and ethical importance. On a personal level longevity has to be completed with richer life contents and new realizable opportunities, otherwise it has no sense. Active and healthy aging cannot be the highest goal by itself. Life is also an opportunity for personal development, which is not only professional or material self-realization, but also a spiritual maturing tolerance, solidarity and understanding of others. Spirituality in us does not age and the longer we live, the more opportunity we have for its understanding.

Božidar Voljč