Active aging was defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2002 as “the process of optimizing health, participation and safety opportunities to improve the quality of life of aging people”. Numerous international studies in fact testify to the positive link between actively aging and the benefits on physical and psychological health, including the perception of a higher quality and satisfaction of life.
Active aging means being active or activating in a formal or informal way in one or more areas of the social sphere (labor market, volunteering, social relations, lifelong education, assistance to family members with disabilities, being a grandparent, etc.) or even personally ( leisure activities, hobbies, tourism, gardening, music, etc.), freely choosing the activity or activities in which to engage, according to one’s aspirations and motivations.
In view of its positive effects on individuals, active aging can be considered a preventive tool to aspire to healthy aging as much as possible.
There is therefore a substantial conceptual difference between active aging and healthy aging, as the former is a means (among other prevention tools, such as, for example, proper nutrition, etc. ) to aspire to the second, which is the end.
However, the concept of active aging is not just about the individual sphere, as its benefits are also evident for society as a whole: it is a useful tool to help solve some of the main challenges related to the aging of the population.
Among the many reasons why it is appropriate to promote active aging at the macro level, one of the main ones is the demographic one. Europe, in fact, is aging and is increasingly long-lived, and this is even more true for Italy.
The aging of the population is also closely connected to economic reasons as an increasing number of elderly people, if not “productive” in some way, would economically weigh on an ever smaller number of younger people.
Active aging can lead to a prolonged productive contribution by older people (in the labor market, in volunteering, as a tutor for young people, etc.) and, at the same time, it can help to contain spending on social and health services and consumption of drugs. , with benefits for all parties involved.
The concept of active aging has been on the agenda at European level for several years, promoted through a variety of documents and initiatives including, by way of example: the Madrid International Action Plan on Aging (MIPAA) of the United Nations, adopted by Second World Assembly on Aging in Madrid in 2002; the creation of the European Partnership for Innovation on Active and Healthy Aging (EIPAHA) in 2011;
the designation of 2012 as the European year of active aging; the development and launch, in the same year, of the Active Aging Index, wanted by the European Commission and the Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations (UNECE), in order to be able to measure the level of active aging in a given geographical context based on a set of selected indicators.
In 2019, an ambitious national initiative was launched which aims to create a multi-level participatory coordination of active aging policies thanks to a three-year collaboration agreement between the Department for Family Policies and the National Rest Institute. and Care for the Elderly (IRCCS INRCA).
The activities involve all relevant stakeholders (regions, ministries, civil society, research, etc.) at the various national, regional and local levels, to implement in a participatory manner, through a co-decision-making process, a model of interventions and “good policies “on active aging.