Ageing is more than a mere biological process. Andreas Kruse, director of the Institute of Gerentology, Heidelberg University, Germany, talks more about it.
Is there a specific age bracket in which people start to age? For instance will it be right to say that men and women across the world start ageing at say 60 plus and become old after 80?
No. Ageing is a continuous process with a high degree of variability in physiological and psychological dimensions. As a thumb rule, people who are sharp with their mental faculties, free of cognitive disabilities and have emotional balance and stronger resilience are less vulnerable to premature ageing.
Is there a strong connection between cognitive decline and emotional and psychological factors? Can you please explain this connection through an example?
Yes there is. People who have intimate and trustworthy relationships are more likely to display a strong cognitive capacity and psychological resilience till a ripe old age. Going by this logic, it is very important to foster the psychological well-being of people with dementia. They should always be integrated in emotionally sensitive caring communities.
What are your views on the ‘International Plan on Ageing’?
The International Plan of Action is a significant document as it focuses on human rights and the dignity of the elderly. This document also outlines the strong cultural differences of age and ageing and emphasises upon the developmental potential of all stages of life. Further, it accentuates older people’s fundamental right to have equal access to medical treatment, rehabilitation, care and social services and points to the risk of elder abuse and neglect. Not seldom we find in developed as well as in developing countries a high responsibility for realising the key issues and challenges which have been addressed in the International Plan of Action. However, realising these issues and challenges is also dependent on the sensitivity of politicians with regard to all these issues.
What are the programmes/initiatives undertaken by Heidelberg University to generate mass/public awareness on the subject of ageing?
We launched a lot of public programmes for disseminating information on ageing. Incidentally, I chair our government’s expert commission on ageing, and we collaborate intensively with mass media in order to disseminate our messages.
Can you please elaborate on the flagship programme on gerontology offered at your university?
The gerontological study programme offered at the Heideberg University is called the Höheres Lehramt an beruflichen Schulen mit der Fachrichtung Gesundheit und Gesellschaft - Care (equivalent of BA/BSc).