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Worldwide Testing Shortage Impacts Long-term Care Facilities and Nursing Homes

The coronavirus is in more than 180 countries (that’s 92% of the world.) We don’t know the number of people affected because of the lack of worldwide testing. Nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and other aging services providers are unnecessarily bearing the brunt of negative attention for what is an international problem in testing.

Global Ageing Network Executive Director, Katie Smith Sloan, spoke with The Wall Street Journal this past weekend, saying “Some places can’t get testing at all, some places it’s spotty.” Government authorities and our industry need “the ability to prioritize and understand where it’s happening, so we can prevent the spread and aggressively intervene.”

Nursing homes are telling the truth, fully and fast. They report as much as they know in any given moment. Testing can reveal the most accurate truth possible. But right now, no country is fully tracking every person with this novel coronavirus in every long-term care facility. To our knowledge, there has been no country in the world that has flawlessly tested every nursing home resident, staff, and family member. But not for lack of trying.

Belgian authorities are prioritizing their limited testing to hospitals, which means nursing homes are not receiving all the testing they should. So, care workers do not know if the people they care for carry COVID-19. On April 3rd, Belgium’s Risk Management Group arranged for 20,000 tests to be distributed among long-term care homes. On April 6th, the International Long-term Care Policy Network estimated that 90% of Belgium’s long-term care homes had cases. Despite the Belgium Institute for Health’s epidemiological tracking, care homes do not have all the testing they need to verify case predictions. One Global Ageing Network member, Sodexo Belgium, reported a nursing home that was able to organize testing. That found many people with coronavirus who had no symptoms at all. This major win allowed quick identification and move to prevent more cases, especially since the home lacked appropriate amounts of personal protective equipment. Flemish residential test centers are planning how to use the first round of testing they received, while addressing plans for the best way to distribute tests moving forward. Testing roll outs are still in pilot stages.

Another piece of data that requires the hard truth is the death count. As of April 11th, out of 288 deaths in Ireland, 156 were nursing home residents. That is over 54%. But which is worse, knowing the hard truth or not knowing at all? Compare Ireland to the United States, which has no federal tracking system for nursing homes or other care facilities. The numbers are impossible to verify without widespread testing. The UK reports unbelievably low numbers for care home deaths. France at first excluded nursing home deaths from the pandemic toll count. Deaths that have not been tracked may have occurred from co-morbities related to unknown COVID-19 infection.

Due to low testing rates leading to inaccurate information, some care homes are taking overly cautious steps.  Some Scottish care homes are suspending all activity. One strategy is barring nurses suspected of the virus from practicing until testing can reveal a sure answer. These steps put strain on some services and simultaneously may cause distress for some residents.

Countries with low testing rates have localities stepping up. In Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, County Commissioner Dr. Arkoosh corrects that realistically the 75 state-licensed nursing homes only have about one to two cases each. She’s including nursing home infection data in frequent public reports. The County is moving to use existing medical tracking to identify early symptoms in homes to take a preventative approach to spread.

ICUs and hospitals are the top priority for the Netherlands government, while the elder care sector lands at the bottom of the list. The sector has considered setting up their own independent supply chain from China, but because of national requirements to uphold specific standards in the supply chain, that cannot be an option. The National Association of Medical Specialists for Elderly Care are moving forward with studies using electronic records called Ysis.

Could global ageism be the reason nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are at the bottom of the list for receiving tests? The American National Institute of Health only started requiring medical students to study geriatrics in 2019. People over 65 were not even being tracked for flu in some American states. Italy’s chief epidemiologist estimated care homes have underreported, because of the lack of testing given to residents. Over the next few months as we move into plans and scenarios that can roll out testing, governments must remember to include allocation that can go to care staff, nursing home residents, and anyone in contact with long-term facilities.

Academics and care providers recommend to governments that a solution to preventing any more COVID-19 cases in nursing homes and other long-care facilities is widespread testing.

Global Ageing Network will continue to look for who is massively testing, what preventative measures regional authorities are taking in nursing home environments, and what studies will be released over the next couple of years.  If you have information, please reach out at


Over one month of Coronavirus Response in Ireland’s Nursing Homes

Ireland’s chief medical officer said, as of April 16, that coronavirus cases in the population have decreased. However, nursing home cases are still a rising concern.

Nursing homes are getting the reputation of a “Cinderella Sector”, based in the European fairytale about an ignored stepsister that deserves more positive attention from her family.  Nursing homes are the ignored stepsister that grew into a Grimm’s fairytale version of the story.

Warnings of coronavirus started in early March. Nursing Homes Ireland responded quickly on March 4 with blanket restrictions on visitations. Pushback came from the National Public Health Emergency Team that found such a blanket response was too drastic at the time.  Three days later, the restriction was reinstated. On April 6, Ireland received criticism for its slow rollout of measures to tackle COVID-19 in care homes. In 10 days, the outbreak in public and private nursing homes jumped from 4 to 50. After more outbreaks, the recommendation was for lockdown for those over 70, without also pairing an offer of safe environments.

As of April 16, one-third of Irish care homes had at least one positive case of COVID-19. Ireland is in a unique position. Virology experts are calling for underutilized hospital staff to relocate their skills to nursing homes.

As of April 17, the Health Services Executive responded with strategies like staggering shifts to relieve workers making through the emergency. Another issue isn’t the need to add just any staff. Nursing homes are adding specialist guidance, depending on what any nursing home needs. Locally, people respond immediately as needs change daily.

The EU suggests that about half of COVID-19 deaths are in care homes. The Health Information and Quality Authority describes a way to bounce back from these numbers are to test all healthcare workers first and isolate positive cases. As of April 20, experts are continuing to call for testing health workers. Ireland’s reaction is appropriate. The country wants to ensure the statistics are accurate and will continue to look for cases and interventions moving forward.

UN Secretary General Statement

File:UN emblem blue.svg - Wikimedia Commons

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing untold fear and suffering for older people across the world.
The fatality rate for older people is higher overall, and for those over 80, it is five times the global average.

Beyond its immediate health impact, the pandemic is putting older people at greater risk of poverty, discrimination and isolationIt is likely to have a particularly devastating impact on older people in developing countries.

As an older person myself, with responsibility for an even older mother, I am deeply concerned about the pandemic on a personal level, and about its effects on our communities and societies.
Today we are launching a policy brief that provides analysis and recommendations to address these challenges. Our response to COVID-19 must respect the rights and dignity of older people.
There are four main messages.

First, no person, young or old, is expendable. Older people have the same rights to life and health as everyone else. Difficult decisions around life-saving medical care must respect the human rights and dignity of all.

Second, while physical distancing is crucial, let’s not forget we are one community and we all belong to each other. We need improved social support and smarter efforts to reach older people through digital technology. That is vital to older people who may face great suffering and isolation under lockdowns and other restrictions.

Third, all social, economic and humanitarian responses must take the needs of older people fully into account, from universal health coverage to social protection, decent work and pensions.
The majority of older people are women, who are more likely to enter this period of their lives in poverty and without access to healthcare. Policies must be targeted at meeting their needs.

And fourth, let’s not treat older people as invisible or powerless. Many older people depend on an income and are fully engaged in work, in family life, in teaching and learning, and in looking after others. Their voices and leadership count.

To get through this pandemic together, we need a surge in global and national solidarity and the contributions of all members of society, including older people. As we look to recover better, we will need ambition and vision to build more inclusive, sustainable and age-friendly societies that are fit for the future.

Global Economic Policy Reactions to COVID-19

by Beth Brodsky

Countries across the globe are changing economic policy to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Today’s emergency response will specifically impact the world’s aged and how people will age in future years.

For example, the International Monetary Fund reports that in Jordan, as of March 23, the country is allocating 50% of its maternity insurance revenues (JD 16 million) to material assistance for elders and individuals who are sick. As of April 2, Mexico is advancing pension plans to older adults. Hong Kong offered  1.3 billion dollars for vulnerable populations, including programs targeting elders.

These responses are coming at cost in all countries. As of March 26, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicted a decrease in GDP by at least 15% for the majority of the world’s largest developed countries. Higher income countries like the United States are feeling institutional impacts of COVID-19, without clear future standards yet in place. Some hospitals in the U.S. opted out of offering elective surgeries, and are now feeling the monetary impact of that decision. At a time when staff is needed, hospital funding sources are questioned.

LeadingAge recently educated its provider network on the U.S.’ “Paycheck Protection Program” to maintain/restore payroll for healthcare provider care workers throughout pandemic. Without care workers, there is no care. But in the fog of crisis, immediate responses from localities are being made sooner than long-term policy considerations.

Regardless of country income, every city has its rich and poor. Many wealthier parts of cities can rely on digital solutions for social distancing in a way that those without access to basic needs cannot. COVID-19 knows no class system, so countries are developing policies to find relief for the majority of citizens, like suspending rent payments. Bratislava developed a Senior Citizen’s free-of-charge phone line for seniors to access their basic needs like food and medication. Lima, Peru, has a voluntary register for older citizens and a program for bonus soles. Yokohama, Japan, distributed 500,000 free facemasks to elder care institutions.

With cities in higher income countries strapped, how can we put in perspective what that looks like for countries who entered the crisis without the same capital?

Oxfam highlights that while developed countries health systems are overwhelmed, low-income countries are devastated. Italy has one doctor for every 243 people. Compare that to Zambia’s one doctor for every 10,000 people. In refugee camps globally, there is one doctor for an estimated 25,000 people. Mali has 3 ventilators for every million people.

Oxfam released a report suggesting solutions for how the globe should react to build a long-term worldwide response. Oxfam recommends doubling funding to 85 of the world’s poorest countries. That funding could hire 10 million health care workers, affecting the health of 3.7 billion people. As we know how quickly COVID-19 spreads, preventing coronavirus in 3.7 billion people can change world history.

Asking high-income countries for aid in a time of severe economic downturn may seem impossible. However, recontamination after travel bans are lifted seems worse. One country’s inequitable healthcare system is another country’s second wave contamination.

The World Economic Forum suggests forgiving country debt in combination with Oxfam’s aid proposal. They also suggest that nations must follow Spain’s lead and requisite items from private healthcare centres. Free testing and treatment must be made immediately to all. The World Economic Forum puts into perspective that these solutions are doable, “160 billion dollars sounds like a lot. It’s entirely possible. It’s less than 10% of the U.S. fiscal stimulus to tackle coronavirus. It’s far more than what government donors are committing already.”

Right now, the world is in a haze. While there are no clear answers, there are solid policy recommendations that should be completed at the global scale, based both on local action and international cooperation. If you have suggestions, please email us at with innovative global policy recommendations.

A Success Story from Kenya

By Nancy Wagachu

Program Director

Wells Of Hope Centre

Senior Citizen Nursing Centre is a registered nonprofit/non-governmental organization founded in 2015 with a mission to provide quality and dignified care for the aged in Kenya.

The founding members, led by visionary Helen Kariuki, started outreach programs where they visited vulnerable elders in their homes. They provided them with food, clothing, and medical camps every three months. During these visits, they found some elders who needed home-based care. Helen rented a house, moved them in, and employed qualified personnel to provide the necessary care. Many of these elders were very lonely. The first person they took was Juliana from Wells of Hope Centre in Kibagare.

The individuals in the outreach program visit the retirement home twice a month. This is facilitated by Helen through organizing transportation to and from their homes, the activities for the day, catering for the day’s lunch, and providing a take home bag with food supplies. Some of the activities include, but are not limited to, making traditional baskets. They try to market them locally and are hoping to get international buyers.

Helen believes in a society where every older person has a home for tomorrow. “God with us, we want to bring this aspect of loneliness at old age to an end.” However, the number of beneficiaries is very small. Extending our outreach programs and expanding the center will make us achieve more and reduce old age stress.

“Our dream is a center where all older people within our reach can be meeting daily and socialize. Our future plan is to build our own facility to reduce the expenses of renting a house, which is limiting the number of residents”.

“Our success stories moving forward will be reliant on your full financial support and goodwill through donations, sponsorship, and if possible, partnership to help us manage the center. It’s truly evident that loneliness is not a disease, but it kills.”

Taiwan: Measures against COVID-19


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Countries around the world struggle to combat the COVID-19 outbreak with millions of citizens sheltered in place. We can look to Taiwan, a country in close proximity to China and its effective efforts to manage the spread of the disease. Taiwan currently has 382 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 6 deaths. What efforts has Taiwan made to effectively control COVID-19?

  1. Public-private Collaboration

Taiwan established an epidemic information platform through the “Central Epidemic Situation Command Center.” Starting on January 23rd, daily press conferences were hosted to update citizens on the COVID-19 outbreak along with updates from various government departments, medical institutions, and social media accounts.

Crises like COVID-19 disproportionately affect vulnerable, low-income populations. It is incredibly important that governments coordinate with the private sector to create a successful social safety net. The Taiwanese government collaborated with private companies to provide isolation hotel rooms for those who can’t isolate at home. Some local governments have received donations from private organizations to subsidize protection equipment and products for vulnerable populations.

  1. Mass Media

Taiwan has coordinated with private media companies to broadcast COVID-19 prevention information such as hand washing techniques. The Taiwanese government has also worked with the civil sector to create maps that let citizens know locations and quantities of prevention supplies in more than 6,000 pharmacies.

  1. Lifestyle Changes and Awareness

When the COVID-19 outbreak began, Taiwanese medical experts immediately took matters quickly. Experts informed the public that COVID-19 was more dangerous and infectious than the seasonal flu. This allowed for citizens to prepare epidemic prevention gear and for them to immediately begin social distancing.

Additionally, after the SARS outbreak in 2003, wearing a mask in public became part of the daily routine for Taiwanese citizens.

  1. Debunking Misinformation

Misinformation travels quickly, creates panic in citizens, and develops distrust in the government. That is why it is important that governments respond quickly. To tackle misinformation, Taiwan established the “Taiwan FactCheck Center.” When the Taiwan FactCheck Center discovers misinformation, the Center will verify the statement in 60 minutes and provide the public with correct information.


Securing Care Homes For Workers Secures Homes for Older Adults

“Biosecurity” strategies can prevent spread of COVID-19 in enclosed group gatherings. Care homes, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and more fall under the umbrella of enclosed group homes.

Care workers are the enforcers of biosecurity. Global Ageing Network Board Member Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum in the UK, was recently quoted in the Byline Times saying “Care homes are good at infection control” because “staff have training in pandemic protocols and infection control.” Staff are reliable and dutifully showing up to work at a time when others can stay home.

Issues that care workers are facing seem universal:  lack of PPE and the inability to obtain tests.  Testing feels nonexistent in the UK, in places in the USA, and other countries. In the UK, if testing is non-existent for frontline workers through the NHS, “virtually no care home or domiciliary staff or carers have been tested.” In Scottish care homes, the “crisis within the crisis” is that care home staff cannot obtain tests. If testing were widespread, many care home staff could get out of quarantine and back to work. Instead, they are falling ill, and the majority who do not have COVID-19 carry the work load including the mental strain of being in the midst of the pandemic.

Some issues care workers are facing, like low wages, were all too familiar before the pandemic. The Financial Times points out that the UK provides non-essential employees up to 80% of their wages while on furlough. Those non-essential workers at home now often bring in higher wages than healthcare workers who risk their lives at their jobs.  Due to low wages and shortage of staff, what was an industry problem prior is now on the radar of the general public through the lens of a heightened crisis. The Times further reported some of the most crucial staff were the lowest paid. “Key workers” and “Essential workers” are playing the most important roles across the world and are valued the least. The serious global reform we can institute in response to the pandemic could also heal this growing wound that started years prior.

For example, care workers are now getting the well-deserved title of “hero.” They are not lifting cars with one hand or running into an explosion. They are doing their job while trying to stay healthy. Our job now is to develop strategies support them. Global Ageing Network member,  LeadingAge, in the United States developed a community site for strategies to support the workforce, based on what U.S. providers are doing. Examples from the U.S. and other countries follow:

  • Increase staff wages- A number of staff will work in multiple settings to increase their overall earnings. By offering increased wages, staff are incentivized to work only in one setting to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
  • Compensation Funds- For workers stricken with COVID-19, New York is in the process of creating a COVID-19 Compensation Fund for those who are ill. The fund will cover support for healthcare and other frontline workers, as well as their family members, who contract COVID-19.
  • Support care workers by offering safe child care – Providers are offering temporary childcare services for essential workers.
  • Separate a changing area for staff. Securing uniforms, encouraging fellow staff not to wear uniforms on public transportation, and changing clothes upon entering and leaving work can decrease transmission.
  • Virtual support systems – Professor John Ashton, former director of public health told the Byline times: “In 2006/7, when I was public health director in Cumbria, we divided the county into six districts and found GP leaders for each district to work with care homes and across the health and care system. Four of us, myself as public health director, a GP, a pediatrician and a hospital director, shared the medical director role for the county and, every week, we ran a virtual round across all the hospitals, care homes and GPs This gave proper GP oversight of care homes and this is what we need now.”
  • Expand Telehealth Services– Where possible, telehealth can offer care alternatives where appropriate. Global Ageing Network member, LASA, welcomed Australia’s $1.1 billion investment that included investment in telehealth services. Telehealth can prevent spread among care workers, as well as offer care workers mental health services around the clock.
  • Provide complementary food and/or grocery shopping for workers – One U.S. care home is offering complimentary staple food to their staff. By offering this food as a collective, there is a greater chance individual workers may be able to make fewer trips to the grocery stores.
  • Share Data– French nursing homes have run into technical difficulties sharing data that reveals grave statistics on deaths in nursing homes. But if lessons can be learned from one response, lives can be saved in another. Advanced data collection could allow quicker deployment of resources. South Korea learned from the MERS crisis that transparency can lead to quicker action for COVID-19. South Korea now poses as one of the world leaders in their first wave response to COVID-19.
  • Cultural Competency Migrant workers are disproportionately the group on the front lines in the healthcare crisis. The UK previously deemed migrant health workers as “low-skilled”. But just two months later during this pandemic, the UK relabeled the same health workers as “key” workers. Healthcare migration poses ethical questions, such as to what extent countries gaining medical workers are depriving those workers home countries of medical resources? The Center for Global Development recommended policymakers build rapid transport systems for multi-national healthcare workers to respond to countries hardest hit as they hit their peak needs. To do this, we need flexible visa issuance and worker support, which the Open Society Foundation is now piloting.


One LeadingAge member in New York remarked that properly biosecured care homes are more safe than social isolation in one’s own home for months on end. There is more of this pandemic ahead of us, but with precautionary measures we can get through until there is a vaccine.

By Beth Brodsky

Global Ageing Network Sponsors Pass It On Network’s United Nations Virtual Side Event

On Tuesday, April 7, 2020, Global Ageing Network co-sponsored Pass It On Network’s United Nations (UN) side event. Originally, the event was meant to take place in conjunction with the UN Open-ended Working Group on Aging (OEWGA), which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic. The OEWGA serves as an international forum, to provide widely enacted participation of stakeholders giving visibility to older persons. The focus of the event for the 11th session was innovations in “Lifelong Learning and Earning.” Advocates came together to share and brainstorm new norms to empower older persons to gain access to the labor market.

Jan Hively and Moira Allan worked to virtualize the event over Zoom, with Dieter Zwicky playing the emcee for the meeting. Kari Henley offered technical facilitation for over 100 participants from every continent (except Antarctica). The virtual event had two plenary sessions and four breakout sessions. The chat function enabled brainstorming amongst experts.

The office of Ambassador Martin Garcia Moritan from Argentina, Chair of OEWGA kicked off the session acknowledging the context the meeting took place in. COVID-19 has brought up the alarming phenomenon on public discourse that coronavirus is an older person’s disease, creating unnecessary stigma. COVID-19 also brought public attention to the meaningful contributions from doctors, nurses, and the health systems they work in. Rather than allowing COVID-19 to control the dialogue, the UN working group should identify all levels of challenges and strengths, need to immediately listen to older person’s voices, and address life and health. By making the labor market more accessible, the group can trigger ideas to redefine aging.

Moira Allan and Jan Hively from Pass It On Network shared concern over lifelong learning and earning problems. Currently, there is concern pension schemes globally are strained. Adults are concerned about having enough money to fulfill a life course. What guides can we turn to build our self-worth, self-esteem, and financial security? We’re living in a time fraught with breathless rate of change. We need constantly to “upskill” and “reskill” to continue playing a role in society. Yet we’re still confronted with ageism, which refuses to see contributions. Employers take this attitude. We must take responsibility for our own narratives. Rather than making comments like “I’m having a senior moment” we must ask “how to be positive ageing activists for ourselves.”

Jan and Moira introduced us to speakers listed below that opened conversations on the four topics of the event: education, employer-government-non-governmental organization (NGO) collaboration, entrepreneurship, and digital literacy.

Helen Hirsch Spence, Top Sixty Over Sixty shared that feeling of everything moving so fast affects all ages. She pointed out that trainable engineering skills could last 35 years in 1920, 10 years in 1960, but today’s trainable skills only last about 18 months. Because skills retraining has become a commodity, age is irrelevant to judge work competency. “The speed of change cannot be limited to one or two institutions,” she said. Spence reiterated we must reframe how we design our life course. As we move into the next 10-15 years, she anticipates 30-80% of all jobs will disappear. Continuing skills for 21st century learning are communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, connectivity/citizenship, and community.

Joann Montepare, Lasalle University, discussed potential changes in education with age-friendly universities. She answered three questions: (1) Why do we need more age friendly institutions of higher education? Individuals work longer in their lifetime now than they used to. Higher education for all life stages can provide development in career path and earning potential. (2) What is the age friendly university initiative? Created at Dublin City University in 2012, the age-friendly university initiative was built to encourage personal development and inter-generational learning. (3) What are hurdles to establishing age friendly universities? Two hurdles must be overcome: the first is ageism. The narrative on what a college student looks or acts like is an outdated one to the reality that many older adults are returning to school, with programs like U3A. The other barrier is how higher education institutions interpret what a successful business model can look like. Institutions can be resistant to change, but in acknowledging the profitable nature of appealing to a wider student body, leaders in industry can see age-friendly universities as an exciting opportunity to navigate.

Ramsey Alwin, AARP International, discussed the future of work via collaboration. In partnership with World Economic Forum and OECD, AARP is taking a multi-prong strategy for a multi-generational, global workforce. The OECD forecasted in the next 30 years, a multigenerational workforce could increase global GDP by 20%. If not, the world may see decline because of current fertility rates/ageing rates. The partnership is working with multinational companies to develop age into diversity and inclusion policies.

Elizabeth Isele, Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship (GIEE), led the conversation on entrepreneurship and empowerment. She made the point that in the current events, there is a narrative focusing on the wrong aspect of people over 60. In popular American culture, people over 60 are repetitively referred to as vulnerable, without acknowledge that people over 60 are also the people that institutions are reaching out to for their experience to help overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.  She gave the example of thousands of retired persons in New York City are coming back to work in medical centers. England called for 250,000 volunteers and were overwhelmed with 750,000 volunteers offering help.  GIEE is running experience incubators, bringing intergenerational groups together to solve problems. She refers to the work as an Action Tank rather than a Think Tank. By bringing these groups together to solve a problem rather than just meeting for coffee, people of all ages can be participants in their own future.

Peter du Toit, Founder of FutureWork IQ, led the conversation on digital learning and work in today’s environment. Organizations, now more than ever, must build flexible and remote workplaces. Peter put into perspective that post-pandemic, our work situation will not change. Post-pandemic, we can continue to resolve global warming issues with decreased commuting.  And after the economic fall-out, many CEOS will want to cut costs, and working remotely longer-term can offer that solution. He went through seven core competencies required for lifelong learning, some of which are addressed in classes through FutureWork IQ.

Sharing Solutions
Pass It On Network solicited feedback for strategies to resolve gaps in their country’s policies on aging. Some feedback provided were existing programs, while others were suggestions. One example of an existing program was in Singapore. All Singaporean citizens over the age of 25 years old were given a SkillsFuture Credit of 500 Singapore dollars that can be used at any time in life for personal development but can only be used once.  There are over 8,000 approved courses from institutions, community organizations, and public agencies, that individuals can choose from. In April 2020, the government granted a second credit for COVID-19 as people are staying home. More than 500,000 individuals benefitted from this program.

Another solution brought up from participants was in Iceland. Universities in Iceland are open to all ages. Another couple of examples were in Europe. The United Kingdom has a policy that must show how accessible universities must be to the community, with age as an explicit consideration. DIGITOL is combatting fake news in the EU with training programs.

The meeting ended with one question: What key policy change or action should be required in your country to make the right to learn and earn a reality for all older persons?

Comments to this questioned obviously varied by country. Some suggestions individuals had for their respective countries during the global lightning round of brainstorming are listed below:

  • Iceland should have awareness of human resources and flexibility in retirement.
  • Somalia would like to partner on social protection and inclusion for older persons.
  • Canada and Ireland should shift societal narratives away from ageism, including a mindset shift from health to wealth.
  • Austria could create programs to enhance language skills in older persons.
  • The United States should adopt universal basic income for adults to work in whatever form they want, which would recognize similarities in paid and unpaid labor.
  • One participant recognized that the United Nations could better incorporate the youth voice on the discussion of developing ageing strategy.

Global Ageing Network appreciates the opportunity to sponsor such a wonderful event. For more information about Pass It On Network, you can visit their website here.

Dominican Republic’s Dr. Pereyra Uses Media for Public Health Messaging on COVID-19

Dominican Republic’s Dr. Pereyra Uses Media for Public Health Messaging on COVID-19

Part of the worldwide fear around spreading COVID-19 comes from the uncertainty of media. How much of what the media produces is factual? How much is sensational? What’s the difference between a friend of a friend passing along a doctor’s message and hearing from the doctor yourself?

Dr. Rosy Pereyra, a Global Ageing Network Board member, is doing interviews across the Dominican Republic to get ahead of the messaging with facts about the effect of COVID-19 on older adults. In early March when the Dominican Republic had no deaths and five cases, Dr. Pereyra was doing  radio interviews to warn the public about mass gatherings, prevent traditional greetings of kissing on the cheek, and shaking hands. And importantly, not to panic because panic causes stress, and stress lowers the immune system. Dr. Pereyra reminds us that we do not know how far this is going to go, so we must take care of ourselves, including our mental and physical health.

Only a few people had coronavirus at the time Dr. Pereyra and her team started public messaging. She warned listeners that one person could spread the disease to seven more people. The Dominican Republic has had over 90 deaths and over 1,900 cases (as of April 9 from the World Health Organization).

Dr. Pereyra’s question and answer campaign are a strategy helping slow the spread on the island. In late March, there were no cases in any long-term care institutions the way other countries have experienced. However, as of April 7, there had been two deaths in long-term care institutions in the north. A visitor had brought the virus in before the institution decided to shut down visitations. The Dominican Republic’s leadership shut down schools, flights, and other parts of the economy through April 15th.

To watch Dr. Pereyra’s interviews, click

Physical Distancing Does Not Mean Social Isolation

Physical Distancing Does Not Mean Social Isolation
by Beth Brodsky

Many countries like Canada were already aware of the risks older adults experienced from social isolation and loneliness. Risks included depression, poor general health, and more.

Physical distancing in the time of coronavirus does not have to mean social isolation. Below are strategies from around the world on how older adults are finding social connection in a time of unprecedented physical isolation.

Food and Necessities
Older adults should get connected to grocery delivery services or offer to deliver groceries to affected neighbors. The Australian Department of Health is providing Meals on Wheels for homebound older adults to satisfy vital meal delivery. LeadingAge collected responses of how care providers are managing food delivery like taking orders in advance. Some countries are acknowledging the reality that some people do not live in a situation where they can self-isolate. For those who cannot self-isolate in South Africa’s lockdown, cooking with family can still provide sustenance.

Different considerations are being made for seniors who still must independently obtain necessities. HelpAge International shared a list of strategies on how to prevent contagion for those who still need to collect pension or make their way to a pay point. A Peruvian bank accommodated seniors with seating for those who arrived to wait in line. Canada’s public health services are encouraging community leaders, like elders, spiritual leaders, educators, non-public health groups to transmit accurate messages where there is a trust-based relationship with the community.

Use conference calls to stay connected. The International Institute of Malta is encouraging friends and family to take advantage of video conferencing platforms. Providers can offer seniors phones or other technologies if they do not already have their own. For older adults with access to technology, the UK’s Social Care Institute for Excellence suggests social workers take advantage of these digital connections on video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Facetime, WeChat, Skype, and Google Hangouts. One woman in the United States celebrated her 60th anniversary over Skype. Other online messaging platforms in use are Marco Polo, Signal, Houseparty, Viber, Line, IMO, Telegram, and more.

For older adults who may need accommodations, Linggo App can help those who are having difficulty with speech communicate. A Global Ageing Network member, the Center for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI), released an evidence-based app, COMPAs, to support communication between people living with dementia, their family members, and caregivers. Timiskaminghu holds daily phone-based activities through Seniors’ Centre Without Walls.  In the United States, some states are offering daily phone calls to monitor if older adults need a wellness check. Dementia Friendly Communities have a list of resources that allow engagement of those with dementia.

Visual art, music, and games are forms of culture that individuals can participate in to stay connected. CABHI suggests five things older adults can do to remain connected and prevent social isolation, while still keeping physical safety. One includes connecting with a Virtual Art Gallery like the Wellzesta app, an online recreation activity geared toward those with cognitive decline. For those without an online connection and have no indoor museums to visit, a quick trip outdoors can allow site-seeing for street art and other murals.

Those with internet connections can watch musical concerts online. CABHI recommends the Metropolitan Opera. You can also check out other online platforms for professional and amateur virtual orchestras.

For adults without an online connection, neighbors can sing from their homes. Italy’s spontaneous neighborhood concerts have connected people who are forced to stay indoors from the crisis. LeadingAge collected a list of how American providers are engaging residents through singing, games, and more.

If you have more tips on how to increase social connection during COVID-19 physical distancing, please share with our network by emailing