Luis Gutiérrez
Director General
INGER
/
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As Life Expectancy Increases, Geriatrics Must Improve

By Miriam Bello | Thu, 02/17/2022 - 10:04

Q: What are the most common trends you see affecting Mexico’s seniors? How is INGER catering to this segment of the population?

A: The percentage of seniors is growing. Now, there are more individuals over the age of 65 than under the age of 5. A less considered trend is the population’s growing longevity because Mexicans are living longer, which calls for a new map of life.

During the past 10 years, we have developed specific care programs for Mexico’s aging population, which was not receiving the attention it deserved. Under the current presidential administration, we are focusing on research and are launching a first-generation of master’s programs in geroscience, the study of how aging enables disease. For the past year, we have been building a system alongside INEGI to collect information pertaining to health, aging and dependency to have a clear registry of long-term care. We expect this information will be available for public use in October 2022, in time for the International Day of Older People.

Q: How is the institute transforming the provision of healthcare services for seniors?

A: When we started, we wanted to transform geriatrics. The National Institute of Geriatrics began this transformation 10 years ago, leading to the quadrupling of specialized centers and the incorporation of 10 times more geriatrics specialty residents Thanks to this change, the institute now works with over 700 geriatricians across the country. We want to increase awareness of issues concerning aging among technology providers and public and private health providers, for which the typical client profile has changed as the primary client for healthcare services is now a senior.

Q: Healthy aging is influenced by the early stages of life. How is INGER enhancing healthy aging?

A: In 2013, we became part of an international group convened by the World Health Organization and worked in what became the WHO’s first global report of health and aging in 2015. The Integrated Care for the People (ICOPE) report coined the concept of intrinsic capacity. Building and sustaining that intrinsic capacity is key for maintaining health while aging. ICOPE is the primary tool to promptly identify risks and later intervene to preserve the intrinsic health of people. At a federal level, the concept has been incorporated into social security and we are working on the provision of health services in Mexico City and training doctors from Argentina, Chile and Costa Rica through the Pan-American Health Organization.

Our priority is to develop strategies to care for the country’s elderly population, addressing their health concerns and dependency. We are increasingly interested in the modulation of the aging process. The past 100 years made it evident that aging processes have changed because life expectancy has doubled.

Q: Does Mexico have the ideal conditions, such as infrastructure, public policies, number of professionals, attention and education, to support healthy physical and mental aging?

A: We have a long way to go, unfortunately. The life expectancy increase stopped as a result of the pandemic but we are 2.3 to three years below the life expectancy in the US, despite the sharp difference in health investment. We cannot forget about the influence of economic and social determinants in the quality of aging, which play a 75 percent larger role in aging than genetics. The role of the environment in which one develops is fundamental in determining the quality of aging.

In May, we will host the annual Latin American Academy of Medicine for Elderly People training course, which, hopefully, will take place partially on-site in Mexico City. The course will address the social and economic determinants involved in aging and longevity, their clinical implications and how to deal with them.

Stigma about aging is also important. The WHO and UN member nations launched an initiative to fight ageism in health services. The systematic exclusion of elderly people in a lot of biomedical services is evident in criteria heavily based on age. In Mexico, there is harsh discrimination against older individuals in health services.

Q: Is technology a solution suited for Mexico’s older population groups?

A: Access to these innovations is considerably limited for seniors. While over 70 percent of the population has access to a cellphone, that does not mean they own a smartphone or can use it. However, new technologies and technical resources are being increasingly developed to improve the quality of life for seniors. Other important initiatives in which we are involved include Alzheimer’s research to develop an effective disease modifying treatment.

Q: What other measures are being taken to improve care for seniors?

A: A law is being suggested in the Chamber of Senators that would develop a national care system for seniors, which would also open business opportunities. Even the richest governments have been unable to fund these projects and have also needed to incorporate private funding.

 

The National Institute of Geriatrics (INGER) focuses on the interdisciplinary design of optimal responses, ranging from prevention to rehabilitation and palliative care for the elderly population.  

Photo by:   INGER
Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst