The concept and idea of healthy ageing as described by the WHO includes the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability of individuals that enables their well-being in older age, where functional ability is defined as the attributes related to health which enable people to do what they want to do and value as important for themselves . It will include the ability of the elderly to meet their own basic needs, be able to move, build and maintain their relationships and be effective contributors to society (Devi, 2018).
Functional ability is key and central to the idea of healthy ageing as it defines the basic ability and inherent capacity of the individual to carry out daily tasks and the relevant associated characteristics of the environment and how they interact with each other (Sims, 2017). Being disease free is not a pre-requisite of healthy ageing as one or two chronic conditions are present in all older adults, which when well-controlled can help to maintain the functional ability of the elderly (Michel et al., 2016). The idea should be to inculcate the development of functional abilities in the elderly so they are able to function on their own and develop and maintain their own skills regarding their life quality(Wong, 2018). The main requirement is to build and sustain anappropriate skilled and developed workforce that works towards ageing related issues and carry out health promotion and healthy ageing in the older population. Also, adequately capacitated and developed systems should be put in place for the provision of long-term and comprehensive care to the elderly. The aim of these systems should be to maintain and achieve a level of functional ability in the older people who have, or are at high risks of losses in capacity and to make sure that care and support provided to them is consistent with their basic rights, freedoms and dignity as well (Beard et al., 2016).
The elderly are more prone and subject to societal and social pressure , thus undermining their abilities to make healthy and autonomous decisions. In a scenario like that, their empowerment and in terms of development of their personal skills should be initiated especially in the case of them being reflected by the actions in the environment which are aimed at provision of clues that signal what proper behaviours are to be held(Beard et al., 2016). Effective communication in terms of health promotion is an effective way of promoting healthy lifestyles and can also contribute in the activation of resources for the elderly, such as –cognitive and motivational while making choices concerned to daily behaviour. It can help in choosing activities and behaviours that promote and produce positive effects and outcomes on the health and well-being of the individual. Thus, this idea of empowerment can serve as a framework to derive a concept that makes attempts to take care of the older generation so that, they are able to maintain the levels of mental functioning, prevent further delay in their social skills and cognition and cope with negative experiences and adverse events (Australian College of Nursing , 2019).
Over-all it can be said and reflected that empowerment and the idea of development of functional abilities in the elderly when combined together can help in promoting healthy ageing in the older individuals and the achievement of this needs sustained efforts by the health system, especially the workforce in the health system. The doctors, the nurses and the people employed in geriatric care specifically play a key role in doing and achieving the same (Britten et al., 2018). Interestingly, the health workforce that is closest in contact with the older population in terms of provision of care is the nursing workforce. They can and do play a specific and important role in promotion of healthy behaviours and thus, healthy ageing in the older population.
Nurses provide care, more specifically to the elder population across a range of facilities such as community, residential care, general practice, correctional facilities and acute care as well. They are also responsible for mentoring the unlicensed staff present in these facilities to help provide care to the elderly. However, the approach to health care that is practiced here includes only looking at and focusing on the curative aspect. So, only the promotion of cure and treatment of existing diseases is done instead of focusing on the preventive aspect of treatment (Australian College of Nursing , 2019). The preventative aspect includes rehabilitation, re- ablement and health promotion which is said to eventually improve and develop the functional ability of the elderly and promote healthy ageing behaviour (Rodger& Hussey, 2017).
Nurses in their various roles can provide care in terms of both curative and preventative as well. Preventative care provided by them will include supporting the elderly in their own choice of setting for living, recognition and responding to functional and cognitive decline in the elderly, promotion of good and positive healthy behaviour early in the life and promotion and education about maintaining a healthy lifestyle in older age as well. Provision of quality older and palliative care as well is an important aspect where nurses provide care to the patients and promote healthy ageing (Antypas et al., 2018).
If we broadly classify the categories in which the nurses provide care to the elderly they could be, provision of person-centred, direct assistance and care provision; health education and health promotion; as partners in care and decision making process for the patients; and, as advocates and promoter of individualised health as well. In terms of person-centred care provision, nurses are responsible for provision of evidence-based practice directly relating to basic care and nursing assistance and also skilled assessments in terms of signs and symptom recognition of any kind of changes in health, changes in functional abilities of the elderly, observing and recognizing medication interactions, management of pain and palliative care; and,being responsive to treatment as well (Suijker yet al., 2016). Spiritual and psychosocial care is also included in the same in terms of providing emotional support and treating older adults with respect and dignity.
The nurse’s role as educator and health promoter, includes imparting education and effective communication about medication management, specific diseases, treatment choices, strategies for prevention of diseases, promotion of healthy lifestyle- exercise, nutrition and fitness as well (Hopkinson, 2015). Health advocacy includes creating and being a part of a supportive system for the patient in terms of advocating for specific individualized care for the patient. Even though there is sufficient evidence describing the importance and the role of nurses in promotion of health and healthy ageing in the population, specific programmesneed to be made to support healthy ageing in health care and in the aged care. Also, more emphasis should be laid upon developing educational and training curriculum for the nurses which is in tandem with the support and maintenance of health promotion and healthy ageing in the population (Oeseburg et al., 2015).
Nurses have a comprehensive and complex role to play in the society especially around the provision of collaborative care of individuals, health promotion, illness prevention, advocacy and research, health system management and education and policy making. Healthy ageing as a process begins in childhood; health promotion strategies can delay or minimize the onset and severity of diseases and age-related decline, and thus, helping save health costs and reducing the long-term support needs of older people. Nurses should be effectively educated and supported properly by the system in order to provide and deliver prevention programmes and health education and promotion to support healthy ageing in all community , aged care, healthcare and older care settings.
Programmes need to make sure that there is equitable access of the health services to the elderly population. These programmes can include cessation of smoking, active living promotion, fall prevention, nutrition, palliative care-proactive and end of life care; and, comprehensive and integrated management of chronic illnesses and diseases. The nurses need better and specific education to develop, maintain and gain the knowledge, skills and competence in order to be able to effectively provide and support healthy ageing inthe elderly population.
Antypas, K., &Henni, S. (2018). Strengthening geriatric competence in primary health care in Norway: The role of the advanced geriatric nurses. Innovation in Aging, 2(Suppl 1), 133.
Australian College of Nursing (ACN), 2019.The role of nurses in promoting healthy ageing – Position statement., ACN, Australia.
Beard, J. R., Officer, A., De Carvalho, I. A., Sadana, R., Pot, A. M., Michel, J. P., &Thiyagarajan, J. A. (2016). The World report on ageing and health: a policy framework for healthy ageing. The Lancet, 387(10033), 2145-2154.
Britten, N., Traynor, V., Osmond, T., &Chenoweth, L. (2018). Developing gerontological nursing competencies: An e-delphi study.Australian Nursing and Midwifery Journal, 25(7), 42.
Devi, A. R., & Singh, K. R. (2018).Healthy ageing. Geriatric Care: Need For Integration, 8.
Hopkinson, J. B. (2015). Nutritional support of the elderly cancer patient: The role of the nurse. Nutrition, 31(4), 598-602.
Michel, J. P., Dreux, C., &Vacheron, A. (2016). Healthy ageing: evidence that improvement is possible at every age. European Geriatric Medicine, 7(4), 298-305.
Oeseburg, B., Hilberts, R., &Roodbol, P. F. (2015).Essential competencies for the education of nursing assistants and care helpers in elderly care. Nurse Education Today, 35(10), e32-e35.
Rodger, D., & Hussey, P. (2017).From entry to practice to advanced nurse practitioner–the progression of competencies and how they assist in delivery of ehealth programs for healthy ageing. Forecasting Informatics Competencies for Nurses in the Future of Connected Health, 111.
Sims, J. (2017). Healthy ageing. Australian Family Physician, 46(1/2), 26.
Suijker, J. J., van Rijn, M., Buurman, B. M., terRiet, G., Moll van Charante, E. P., & de Rooij, S. E. (2016). Effects of nurse-led multifactorial care to prevent disability in community-living older people: cluster randomized trial. PloS one, 11(7), e0158714.
Wong, R. Y. (2018). A new strategic approach to successful aging and healthy aging.Geriatrics, 3(4), 86.
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