Contemporary Issues in Gerontology: Promoting Positive Ageing

By V. Minichiello; I. Coulson | Go to book overview

Foreword

Human ageing is a global phenomenon, linking north, south, east and west. Indeed, while the more developed countries aged substantially in the last century, it is the less developed ones that will see the greatest and most rapid increase in the number of people aged 60 years and over during the first half of this century. The global increase in this age group will be from 10 per cent of the total population in 1998 to 21 per cent in 2050 (from around 600 to almost 2000 million) and, in the less developed countries, the absolute numbers are expected to quadruple.

In the face of this demographic revolution, which presents major challenges to families and communities as well as governments, a strategy is required to ensure that the extra years added to life are quality years rather than being spent in poverty, ill-health, disability and isolation. To paraphrase the World Health Organisation: 'Years have been added to life—now we must ensure that life is added to those years'. Instead of the 'apocalyptic demography' and alarmist newspaper headlines that often greet new data on the scale of population ageing with negative images, what is required is a positive perspective that sees ageing as a lifelong process and older people as significant contributors to family, community and economic life; whose potential is not realised.

That is where this book scores handsomely. As its subtitle suggests, this collection is orientated towards positive ageing and this theme is pursued consistently from chapter to chapter. While its positive focus on active life expectancy is more than sufficient for me to commend this collection to students of gerontology everywhere, it also has an admirably practical dimension alongside its scientific core. Each chapter includes case studies and proposed activities, policy prescriptions and guidance for practitioners. This will make it invaluable as a textbook for practitioners—such as nurses and care workers who are training to work with older people. The chapters themselves are substantially literature reviews covering the key issues under each topic and these issues range widely across the gerontology field. Victor Minichiello and Irene Coulson have assembled a talented cast and, therefore, each contribution is of a very high quality.

The book begins with a powerful argument against ageism (labelled in the United Kingdom as the last unrecognised discrimination) as the basis for positive ageing. In Chapter 2 the centrality of health to positive or active ageing is demonstrated. The increasingly important topic of mental health is discussed in Chapter 3. While recognising the multiple determinants of well

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