Holistic ageing for the times

By MENG YEW CHOONG 

A four-day congress on healthy ageing in Kuala Lumpur next week will see a broad interdisciplinary discussion on ageing.

ORGANISED by the Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society (MHAS) and co-sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the 1st World Congress on Healthy Ageing 2012 (WCHA 2012) will be held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre from March 19-22.

According to Associate Professor Dr Nathan Vytialingam, president of MHAS and WCHA 2012 organising chairman, healthy ageing is one of the major challenges for the world, and hence the need for experts and policymakers to work together to come up with an all-encompassing policy and approach towards tackling the impending scenario.

Assoc Prof Nathan … A person starts to age the moment he or she is born, so it is not correct to talk about ageing only when one is ready for retirement, or after he passes a certain threshold.

“Malaysia is on its way to becoming an ageing society, though the percentage of the elderly is not as high as Japan or Singapore,” said Assoc Prof Nathan in a recent interview.

WHO projections show that the proportion of the world’s population who are over 60 years old will double from less than 11% to 22% from 2000 to 2050, and the total number of people aged 60 years and above is expected to increase from 605 million to almost two billion.

On how WCHA 2012 is different from other meetings on ageing, Assoc Prof Nathan said that other gatherings had tended to focus on the various bits and pieces related to mainstream (medical) approaches, such as on loss of vision, bone loss and so on. “WCHA intends to be holistic in its approach, and we will bring together experts from various fields, including those from the complementary medicine and alternative therapies.”

With the theme “Evolution: Holistic Ageing in an Age of Change”, this international congress will have presentations from WHO (Dr John Beard, Director of Ageing & Life Course), Tony Buzan (inventor of Mind Mapping, United Kingdom), Prof Makoto Suzuki (Director of Okinawa Research Centre for Longevity Science, Professor of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of the Ryukyus, Department of Community Medicine, University of the Ryukus Hospital, Japan), Prof Suresh Rattan (Professor of Biogerontology, Aarhus University, Denmark), just to name a few.

The scientific programme will be robust, with Dr Wong Teck Wee, consultant cardiologist and senior lecturer at Hospital Serdang, Selangor, acting as scientific chairman to oversee around 400 paper presenters from all over the world.

“When we talk about living longer and healthier, it’s about creating the best environment, and that has a lot to do with keeping the environment safe and clean,” said Assoc Prof Nathan, who is intrigued with the factors that lead to longevity and health of the elderly in the world’s “blue zones”, a term popularised by Dan Buettner’s book titled The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From The People Who’ve Lived The Longest.

A blue zone is concept used to identify a demographic groups and/or geographic area of the world where people live measurably longer lives (like in Okinawa, Japan, or Sardinia, Italy).

According to Assoc Prof Nathan, social participation in promoting healthy ageing, stress management, fitness, legal implications in elderly care, financial security, mental health, end-of-life legal issues, and management of nursing homes, as well as retirement villages will be some of the major issues discussed at WCHA, with a strong emphasis on prevention and curative measures in relation to healthy ageing.

“There is a need to enhance our knowledge about the promotion of good health among the young and old for a better quality of life in its later stages. A person starts to age the moment he or she is born, so it is not correct to talk about ageing only when one is ready for retirement, or after he passes a certain threshold,” he added.

The congress is expected to have a 60:40 mix between local and foreign participants. More than 1,500 have registered for the event, which will also accept walk-in participants. For more information, please visit www.healthyageingcongress.com

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