By: Blanca Valdez
In Mexico, 12 million people are older adults, of which 10 percent are dependent, in need of care; 20 percent have some difficulty performing their daily activities and 70 percent are in good health, according to the National Survey on Health and Aging in Mexico (Enasem 2018) of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi).
For this reason, the National Institute of Geriatrics (INGER) develops research whose results will contribute to the construction of public policies to improve the quality of life of 12 million elderly people living in the country. In the Decade for Healthy Aging 2020-2030 of the World Health Organization (WHO), the institute constitutes the largest government initiative in recent years aimed at improving the health of older adults.
On the tenth anniversary of Inger, the general director, Luis Miguel Gutiérrez Robledo, pointed out that a multidisciplinary team of health, social and economic sciences, researchers and experts in public administration, made up of almost a hundred people, generates, disseminates and processes knowledge at multiple levels about this population segment.
It is estimated that 70 percent have high functionality and 10 percent are vulnerable due to their situation of total dependency in need of care, he said.
One of the lessons learned from the pandemic is the high risk posed by poorly controlled chronic non-communicable diseases. This situation caused the burden of disease from covid-19 to be higher in people between 50 and 70 years old with multiple conditions, and mortality higher between 60 and 70 years, he noted.
“Age is just a number. In reality, aging depends more on the number of diseases and the risks that we accumulate over time, and how we are able to neutralize them or adapt to them, in order to age in a healthy way,” said Gutiérrez Robledo.
To improve the performance of health and wellness services, Inger works in coordination with the government of Mexico City, in the Iztacalco, Tlalpan and Cuajimalpa municipalities, where through training of professionals from the Salud en tu Casa program, home care for the population that, due to their condition, cannot be transferred to a health unit.
Also, in conjunction with the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Inger promotes the pilot project “Community-based long-term care” in Mexico City and Guadalajara, consisting of promoting community participation to identify and support the older people in need of care and those exposed to this risk in the event of illness or the occurrence of natural phenomena to prevent or at least defer dependency, and, where appropriate, provide them with priority support. The main objective is to create a care model that serves to develop the national care system.
The Inger, as a collaborating center, participates in a variety of WHO initiatives; among them, the program “Comprehensive care of the elderly”, also within the framework of the Decade of Healthy Aging (2021-2030). This program takes a person-centered approach to health to improve quality of life and prevent dependency in old age. At the same time, it seeks to positively transform the image of old age to combat age discrimination, especially within health services. Healthy aging means maintaining functional capacity so that people can continue doing what they consider valuable throughout life with the full enjoyment of their rights. To achieve this goal, there are actions available to everyone, such as physical activity between 30 and 40 minutes three times a week, healthy eating, building a dense and interactive relational network, avoiding tobacco use and restful sleep.
Gutiérrez Robledo stressed that, in particular, establishing and maintaining social networks with friends or family and avoiding social isolation is essential to maintain well-being in old age.
“This institute moves thanks to the joint work of a highly competent and well-integrated group of professionals, who have maintained a commitment over 10 years. This multidisciplinary team with a vocation for service is fully dedicated to improving the quality of life of all Mexicans when they get old”, he pointed out.