World Congress keeping ageing populations healthy

June 2016

The World Congress on Active Ageing will be hosted by Victoria University's Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL) at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on 28 June – 1 July 2016.

If you visit the World Congress of Active Ageing website, you will read that “in light of significantly increasing governmental focus on keeping their ageing populations healthier and active, this conference will prove to be the largest gathering of experts and stakeholders in the field of Active Ageing ever assembled.”

The statement directs us to the reality that in the 21st century the average age of the global population (but in particular those of first world countries) will increase dramatically.

Between 2012 and 2060, it is estimated that people in Australia aged 75 years or more will jump from 6.4% to an astounding 14.4% of the population.

What is even harder to fathom is that by 2060, there will be roughly 25 centenarians (people over the age of 100) to every 100 babies, compared to 2012 when there was only one per 100.

Australia like many other countries, will need to be prepared to have more people that are older and less youngsters in the years to come. 

Government-funded health and ageing services
The main focus of the world congress is for delegates to share research findings and widely debate how findings can contribute to helping policy makers, governments and older people themselves lead more active and healthier lives. This will assist an emerging group of new professionals with the study and delivery of services related specifically to active ageing.

It also stands to benefit government in the process of allocating and economising resources:
1. It will assist with the allocation of funding relating to aged care services.
2. It will help relieve pressure on government funding related to aged care.

The Australian population is getting older because of declining birth rates combined with higher levels of community healthcare. This means that the working population supporting the cohort of retirees will be proportionally smaller; adding to what will probably be a higher level of dependence on government-funded health and ageing services.

Raising the age of retirement will only serve to solve part of the challenge. As the theme of the conference states – most of the solution to an ageing population can be found in ensuring that all of us remain mobile, that our productive capacity is maintained until later in life, and that ageing is an active, engaging process rather than being contained in and confined to a chair in a retirement home too early in life.

Professor Hans Westerbeek
Club Melbourne Ambassador Professor Hans Westerbeek is on the organising committee for the event and responsible for securing the congress for Melbourne. He is Dean of the College of Sport and Exercise Science and ISEAL.

He believes the World Congress on Active Ageing is an important event “to raise awareness of the challenges and issues associated with health and economic issues and provide thought leadership about how connecting people, policy and practice will translate to solutions to these challenges.”

When asked if there was a particular session that interested him at the congress, he pointed out the keynote speaker, Gil Penalosa, who will be delivering an address at the opening ceremony “Vibrant Cities, Healthy Communities, Happier People.”

“Gil advises decision makers and communities on how to create vibrant cities and healthy communities for everyone regardless of age or social status,” Professor Westerbeek said.

He believes that the people who will benefit from attending the congress are academics, researchers, professionals and policy makers who are seeking to better understand the issues and challenges in regard to active aging and how they can lead the thought and innovation process in their institutions or organisations to respond to these challenges.