TORONTO, November 30, 2011 With approximately 1,200 Canadians turning 65 every day, providing quality health care for older people across this country is taking on increasing importance.
At the interRAI RBC Global Summit held earlier this month in Toronto, health care researchers from around the world made it clear that Canada is not alone in facing a rapidly aging population and its related health care implications.
"What this Summit made very clear is that population aging is a worldwide phenomenon that is touching every level of society - from the very poor to the very wealthy - and while each country has distinctive challenges, all of us need to find ways to deal with the challenges an aging population brings," noted interRAI founder and president Dr. Brant Fries of the University of Michigan. "The benefit of having international conversations such as we had at this Summit is that we can learn from each other and then share those learnings in our respective countries."
The international summit focused on aging, health and well-being around the world, noting that the percentage of people aged 65 and over is continuing to rise dramatically. In 2010, this age category made up 23.1 per cent of the population of Japan, 16.5 per cent of the U.K., 14.1 per cent of Canada and 13 per cent of the U.S. For Canada alone, this translates into over two million seniors.
One of the common themes which emerged from the four-day summit was the importance of putting proper planning into place to meet the needs of people who are growing older and living longer. Another was the importance of giving a human face to all the data that interRAI researchers continue to gather to help improve the quality of care being provided to people who are elderly, frail or disabled.
"As we've found when helping Canadians plan for their retirement years, it's not all about the numbers. The true power in the information based on interRAI assessments isn't in the data itself - it's how the data is applied and the difference that it is making in the lives of elderly people worldwide," explained Michael Walker, vice-president and head of Branch Investments for RBC, co-sponsor of the summit. "At RBC, we're using insights gained from interRAI data to help us to increase our understanding of age-related issues, to ensure our advisors are better equipped to provide appropriate advice and solutions to aging Canadians and their families."
Following the earthquake that hit New Zealand in February 2011, interRAI assessment tools were used to help prioritize emergency health care services for elderly people living in Christchurch, near the earthquake's epicentre. interRAI data also was used to develop an online, interactive caregiving resource - the RBC Your CareGiving Planner - to help Canadians evaluate their informal caregiving needs. The planner's development was led by Dr. John P. Hirdes, senior Canadian Fellow and Board Member of interRAI and a Professor with the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo, Ontario.
"The assessment instruments used in Christchurch and the RBC Your CareGiving Planner are two powerful examples of how partnerships among governments, business and interRAI researchers can help develop solutions for our aging populations," added Dr. Hirdes. "There's no single sector that can provide solutions on their own - it will continue to take a concerted effort by all."
The interRAI RBC Global Summit was attended by over 60 delegates from 17 countries. Some of the topics covered during the Summit included how aging societies can improve quality of care for the elderly, mental health services across the continuum of care, the impact of water quality on the health of individuals and societies and how to deal with the financial challenges of population aging.
interRAI is a collaborative network of researchers in over 30 countries committed to improving health care for persons who are elderly, frail or disabled. Our goal is to promote evidence-based clinical practice and policy decisions through the collection and interpretation of high quality data about the characteristics and outcomes of persons served across a variety of health and social services settings.
RBC is Canada's largest bank as measured by assets and market capitalization and among the largest banks in the world, based on market capitalization. We are one of North America's leading diversified financial services companies, and provide personal and commercial banking, wealth management services, insurance, corporate and investment banking and transaction processing services on a global basis. Our approximately 74,000 full- and part-time employees serve close to 15 million personal, business, public sector and institutional clients through offices in Canada, the U.S. and 55 other countries. We strive to have a positive economic, environmental and social impact and to provide responsible leadership wherever we operate.
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