In 2008, the Aga Khan Foundation in Portugal has commissioned a study to understand how it can address quality of life issues and needs of aging populations. The study was developed by a consortium formed by a Portuguese company, CEDRU – Centre of Studies on Regional and Urban Development, and Boston Consulting Group, a multinational consulting company. The project team was composed of specialists at national and international levels. A partnership with the Sheffield Institute for Studies on Ageing (University of Sheffield), the Institute for the Study of European Transformations (London Metropolitan University), the Institute for Geography (Martin-Luther-Univ. Halle-Wittenberg) and the Department of Geographie (University of Geneva) was formed for the delivery of the study.
Currently, the Portuguese population is facing an increasingly ageing population due to increased life expectancy, lower natality and the emigration of younger people. The ageing index in Portugal shows that there are 139 seniors for every 100 younger people in the country. The total number of seniors is 2,090,613 and 48%, more than one million, are 75 years or older. The existing social responses are not enough to respond to the diversity of needs, interests and life experiences of the older population. For example, home care is accessible to only 4.5% , residential centres and day centres reach 4% and conviviality centres less than 2%. In addition, seniors are not properly valued nor considered a resource for the community.
The Aga Khan Foundation in Portugal aims to improve the quality of life of seniors by focusing on developing solutions to: value seniors in society and strengthen their skills and talents; strengthen formal responses and informal supporting networks for seniors; and strengthen the participation and representation of seniors in society.
The programme is based on community development principles and techniques ensuring participative assessments, the active participation of seniors, working in partnership and developing local networks, sustainability and transferability of knowledge and good practices. AKF Portugal is working with various partners (civil society organizations, public sector, business and Academia) to test and support innovative interventions. Specifically, AKF Portugal is:
- Defining quality of life indicators through participative processes with seniors (assessing the views of seniors on quality of life and its enhancement).
- Developing intergenerational projects between younger and older people (early years, youth).
- Valuing seniors in society by collecting their memories (life stories, material and immaterial heritages of the territories) with different backgrounds and experiences, talents, skills, dreams, interests to produce documentaries and exhibitions.
- Supporting seniors groups to be a resource in the communities through Innovative Community Projects (a methodology in which seniors design, implement and lead projects of their interest).
- Strengthening informal support networks for seniors to prevent and reduce situations of isolation and loneliness (for instance the creation of a voluntary service to improve the monitoring and support in daily activities, such as shopping, conviviality, etc.).
- Reinforcing community dynamics by valuing and enhancing the responsiveness of informal support networks and their articulation with the formal support networks for senior population (for instance between local shops and formal institutions).
- Supporting informal caregivers by enhancing their skills in order to increase their efficiency in providing care and by strengthening their support networks to prevent situations of isolation and emotional/psychological distress.
- Supporting professional caregivers by strengthening their skills: bringing together scientific knowledge and practical examples, collecting good practices, and transferring knowledge and low cost solutions to maintain / enhance physical, cognitive and emotional capabilities of the senior population.