May 17, 2018

Researcher collaborates with WHO on policy for what seniors really need to thrive at home

Yeonjung Lee to spend her summer gaining global perspective on aging
Yeongjung Lee
Yeonjung Lee studies the factors that contribute to helping seniors age in their own communities. Yeonjung Lee

The world is becoming a much greyer place. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by 2050 there will be two billion people over the age of 60. In Canada there are now more people over the age of 65 than there are under the age of 15. In every city, in every country there are conversations happening about the best way to provide care for older adults, and the need to build a solution for long-term care that’s part of the health-care system.

This summer, Social Work professor Yeonjung Lee, PhD, RSW, will head to Copenhagen to spend her sabbatical working with WHO’s Healthy Aging, Disability and Long-Term Care Unit sharing her research and learning perspectives on how the rest of the world is working to help older adults thrive in their communities. 

“I contacted Manfred Huber, the co-ordinator of WHO’s healthy ageing division,” explains Lee, “and I shared my area of interest, which is aging in place and how that is connected to age-friendly city strategies, similar to what the City of Calgary is doing. So they were excited about this opportunity. I’m definitely going to learn from them, but they’ll also be learning from me.”

While in Copenhagen, Lee will collaborate with WHO researchers to produce a policy brief, and a background paper for a meeting on integrated long-term care in the context of primary health care. This topic is very relevant for the Almaty 40, a WHO International conference being held in Kazakhstan Oct. 24-26. 

Lee will be looking at the issues surrounding the global need to create a foundation for long-term care with a focus on less “resourced” settings. She’ll specifically be working on a WHO publication and policy brief on what a “basic package” of public support might look like for family members and other unpaid caregivers in a European context. She’ll also contribute to complementary/supporting publications in peer-reviewed journals on current policies of supporting home care in Europe.

Her Copenhagen trip will also involve mentoring interns and working with the WHO in building co-operative partnerships with scholars and research institutions across Europe to support the larger agenda of meeting the demand for long-term care for older adults.

Like most sabbaticals, Lee’s international sojourn, working on healthy aging at the highest level of international policy, is also a chance for her to recharge her research bank and gain broader perspective on her work in Calgary. Lee is passionate about the city’s age-friendly strategy and looks to contribute by understanding where seniors in the city are concentrated and distilling what makes those neighbourhoods conducive — or non-conducive — to aging in place.