International Conference 50 plus: All the Advatages of Ageing in Ufa on 17-20 September

On September 17-19 in Ufa, the capital of the Bashkortostan Republic, Russian Federation hosted  the event titled “50 plus: All the Positives of Ageing”. The event comprised of the exhibition, research and practice conference, arts and crafts workshops and attracted a lot of attention from public and from the took place in. The conference was organized by the Government of the Republic of Bashkortostan, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare of the Republic of Bashkortostan, Organization of Retired Persons “Wisdom Ripening”, with the support from Ladoga Charity Foundation  and Association of “50 plus” Companies. The main goal of the Conference was to improve the understanding of ageing issues toward more effective policies in the context of the significant social and economic change in Russia.

17 September was dedicated to work with the elderly in non-profit organizations. Representatives of NGOs from Russia, Ecuador, Greece, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uganda and Canada shared the good practices and discussed the needs, challenges and perspectives of work in ageing. It became very evident that the issues facing older generation are similar all over the globe. Elizabeth Mestheneos, former President of AGE Platform Europe, currently IFA Director for Europe repeatedly stressed that  the joint work of many NGOs helps them to promote the interests of older people in the European Union. It is only the united voice of many NGOs that allows them to convince governments to change social policies to improve the lives of older people.

The exhibition of goods and services for older people started on September 18. The exhibition was extremely popular with reportedly about 7000 people attending during two days. Over a hundred of exponents prove that businesses have realized the potential of the “grey” market. The demographic ageing of the population makes the “50 plus” generation the major consumers of goods and services. Older adults also enjoyed arts and crafts classes taught by other older volunteers, listened to lectures on many interesting topics ranging from financial literacy to healthy lifestyle.

On 18 and 19 September researchers and practitioners in the field of ageing had an opportunity to discuss the research conference agenda “Active Ageing: Towards a New Agenda on Ageing”.

The plenary was attended by the President of the Republic of Bashkortostan, Rustem Khamitov and Deputy Chair of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation Svetlana Orlova. Rustem Khamitov talked about the dedication of the Bashkortostan Government to improving the lives of older people in the region. A guest from Geneva, the WHO coordinator for the Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities, Lisa Warth stressed the need to pay attention to health and prepare for old age at any age. “Good health adds years to life,” she quoted the WHO Health Day slogan in 2012. As it was noted by Greg Shaw of the International Federation on Ageing problems and concerns of older people are the same and require careful attention all over the world, however, in Bashkortostan there is  clearly a genuine and serious commitment of the government (including the President of the Republic) to solve them.

The chairperson of the board of the Organisation of Retired Persons “Wisdom Ripening” Gulnara Minnigaleeva discussed various factors influencing lives of older people in Bashkortostan and Russia, and emphasized the need to fight ageism and change stereotypes of old age. The importance of private initiative and cross-sector partnerships was a major theme of the talk by Vadim Samorodov of Ladoga Charity Foundation.

The day continued with the expert panels and discussions of  “New technologies of services for older people in modern society “, “Active lifestyle as a factor of longevity”, “«Medical Gerontology “.  The seminar on World Health Organization Age- Friendly Cities project was of particular interest for the municipalities participating in the Bashkortostan regional Age-friendly Cities programme. At the seminar Debra ONeil presented the experience of the Irish AgingWell Network in promoting age-friendly initiatives and developing partnerships for the benefit of olde people.  The seminar was attended by Heads and Deputy Heads of the municipalities of the Republic of Bashkortostan. Rashit Hairullin, head of Tuymazy Minicipality (first age-friendly cities project participant in Russia) and Boris Belyayev, head of Kumertau Municipalities presented their plans and achievements. Representatives of 21 municipalities received certificates confirming their status as members of the project from the WHO Project Coordinator Lisa Warth. The municipalities most advanced in their age-friendly evaluation and planning were also awarded with the diplomas from the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare of Bashkortostan.

On 19 September presenters addressed topics of discrimination and ageism (Olga Kudryavtseva, Nikolay Vinnik and others), as well as volunteerism  and social potential of older people (Greg Shaw, Elizabeth Mestheneos, Victoria Malina). Dmitry Rogozin presented the results of the research sponsored by the Ladoga Charity Foundation in Ivanovo region of Russia. The research results allow for some new perspectives on the development of the potential of older persons for the benefit of society.

Significant attention during the Conference was focused on the educational component of active ageing. The need to provide opportunities for learning in older age is recognized worldwide today. Third Age Univeristies have become quite popular in the Russian Federation, and Bashkortostan is the first Russian region to introduce a governmentally sponsored program of third age universities. Keith Percy, Editor for International Journal of Education and Ageing” and Ass. Prof. Dr. Dusana Findeisen, the founder of universities of the third age in Slovenia and Stanley Miller, former President of the AIUTA (via skype) spoke about the past and present of lifelong learning in Europe.

Modern technology made it possible also to listen to the presentation on retirement planning by Jan Hively from the United States. And a member of the Board of the Organization of Retired Persons “Wisdom Ripening” Guliya Salikhova was able to provide a report from Vienna where she was representing the interests of the Russian pensioners at the Ministerial Conference on ageing of the Economic Commission for Europe.

The Conference concluded with the city tour and visits to age-friendly sites and social institutions for older people. More than 200 professionals from NGOs, research and government organizations participated in the conference.

Conference materials, photo and video reports are available on the Conference website http://www.ufaconferenceonageing.wordpress.com since September 27, 2012.

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