Active Ageing policies must be addressed throughout people’s lives. Not just from his retirement. This is clear from the conclusions of the doctoral thesis of Ana Belén Cuesta Ruiz Clavijo, considering this stage in terms of rights and not guardianship or care.
Ana Belén Cuesta Ruiz-Clavijo has obtained the degree of doctor after the defense of her thesis ‘Study of Active Aging from the perspective of Social Work’. It was developed in the Department of Law of the University of La Rioja. Also, it was carried out within the framework of the 282D Doctorate in Law and Social Change program (Royal Decree 99/2011). It has been directed by Esther Raya Díez and has achieved the qualification of outstanding ‘cum laude’.
Context of the Doctoral Thesis
According to the research, the concept and models of aging have been evolving towards more integral, multidimensional and transversal models. Thus arises the concept of active aging (WHO, 2002), defined as “the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and safety in order to improve the quality of life of people who age.”
Therefore, according to the author, we consider it necessary to know and analyze the different policies that are being carried out in Spain in order to promote active aging. In this regard, it is necessary to carry out this proposal both at the state level, within the “National Strategy for older people for Active Aging” (2018-2021) and at the regional level, through the different Autonomous Plans for Active Aging and / or Older People.
The ageing of the population constitutes a challenge for society and at the same time an opportunity, both to respond to the social needs of this heterogeneous population group and to incorporate the positive factors that they contribute socially. Also, the research thus has a dual purpose.
The first is to delve into the link between social work and active ageing. To this end, the determinants and principles of active ageing and social work are taken as a reference. In the same way, the levels of intervention and the functions performed by this professional group are considered, and the common and differentiating spaces are observed. The second is to expose the professional challenges that arise from the previous analysis and allow to promote active aging by social work professionals.
To achieve these objectives, the author carried out a comparative analysis of the different plans and strategies. He studied the objectives, principles, lines of action and the measures in which each of the lines is specified. As a result, he presented the common elements of the same and the differentiating aspects, going so far as to identify “gaps” or unfilled areas of aging policies.
According to the author, the data indicate that, in Spain, the percentage of the population over 65 years of age, which in 2014 stood at 18.2%, according to the Population Projections 2014-2064, will become 24.9% in 2029 and 38.7% in 2064. Life expectancy at birth could reach 84.0 years in males and 88.7 in females by 2029. This is an improvement over the current values of 4.0 and 3.0 years, respectively.
Doctoral Thesis Proposals
In her doctoral thesis, Ana Belén Cuesta points out several proposals. It has done so after carrying out a literature review, analyzing existing strategies and studying the discourses of professionals. It was carried out in order to improve policies, programs and services aimed at promoting Active Aging from the perspective of Social Work.
In this sense, Dr. Cuesta Ruiz-Clavijo believes that intergenerational projects, training and awareness actions should be implemented. These actions will contribute to improving the social image of older people.
“The fight against age discrimination is a key element that needs to be done in a multidimensional way. The presence of ageing policies and strategies that promote the social inclusion of each and every one of the elderly is fundamental,” says Ana Belén Ruiz Clavijo.
Premises of the Approach
The premise of this approach is the participation of older people. First in a broad sense, both in the decision-making processes and configuration of policies and / or programs. Also in the issues that affect them in their daily dynamics.
This implies considering “this vital stage in terms of rights and not in terms of guardianship or care,” adds Dr. Ruiz Clavijo. The focus should be on “person-centred care, community development and networking. An example of this are all those experiences that contribute to older people aging in their environment. This involves strengthening proximity services and developing accessible and friendly environments.”
Findings of the Doctoral Thesis
The elderly, as subjects of rights, are a collective of intervention in which the figure of Social Work is present. Both in institutional and geriatric spaces, in community spaces such as clubs and associations of retirees, and in family spaces such as the home care service. This capacity of Social Work to integrate its work in the environment of the elderly allows to detect both fragility and the violation of their rights. This situation must be made visible. As well as providing the channel and necessary elements for the restitution of these rights.
The thesis warns that “Social Work professionals have the tools and skills to work together with older people and promote their effective participation.”
This implies the functions and prioritizing the accompaniment, prevention, promotion and the protest function. On the other hand, the weight of administrative tasks and the bureaucratization of work must be reduced. In the same way, the motivation of professionals for a creative development of their practice should be encouraged.
The current regulations, as the underpinning of the principles of well-being and guarantor of respect and protection for all people for the mere fact of being so, continue to be limited, presenting practical difficulties in achieving the right of citizenship of the elderly. Finally, taking into account the essence, principles, objectives and functions of Social Work, this is one of the disciplines with competencies to promote the best possible aging. This is important in the new framework that opens with the recent approval of the Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020-2030 (WHO, 2020).
It is, therefore, the figure of Social Work, the key social agent for the interconnection of normative and pragmatic spaces. This is the guarantor link of the universality and protection of citizens, especially of the elderly as a fragile and vulnerable group.
Ana Belén Cuesta Ruiz Clavijo has developed her doctoral thesis combining her doctoral research with teaching in the Degree in Social Work at the University of La Rioja. In 2020 he made a stay at the Institute of Advanced Social Research I-COMMUNITAS of the UPNA.
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