HealthWellbeing & Leisure

Promoting Healthy Ageing in Nigeria: A Life-Course Approach

The concept of healthy ageing is often perceived as a concern solely for older adults. However, we must accept that the journey towards successful ageing begins much earlier in life. Nigeria, with our rapidly growing youth population that will become older adults in the near future, must embrace a comprehensive strategy for healthy ageing that considers people of all ages.

Preparing for a healthy future requires a fundamental shift in mindset. There are determinants of healthy ageing that are modifiable, thereby offering opportunities for intervention. These include lifestyle factors such as physical activity and diet, psychological and social factors, and environmental factors like access to healthcare and living conditions.

As a physiotherapist, promoting physical activity stands out as a low-hanging fruit with far-reaching benefits. Regular exercise not only supports physical well-being but also contributes to our mental health. However, encouraging physical activity in a population requires a comprehensive approach rather than just individual efforts. There is also the issue of the amount and types of physical activity, which is of utmost importance, especially for older adults.

Also read: Thirty minutes’ exercise won’t counteract sitting all day, but adding light movement can help – new research

Nigeria therefore urgently needs a national exercise policy that addresses strategies to increase physical activity across all age groups and settings. While we have policies that acknowledge the importance of physical activity, for instance, the National Health Policy (2016) recognizes the importance of physical activity for preventing non-communicable diseases, and the National Policy on Sports Development (2009) focuses on the development of competitive sports and physical education in schools. There is no specific national policy dedicated to increasing physical activity levels across the population as a public health priority.

This new policy should promote active lifestyles from an early age while detailing the WHO-recommended amounts and types of physical activity for all age groups. To enforce this in older adults, professionals working with them and their careers can play a pivotal role in implementing these strategies in the community, healthcare, and home settings. By implementing such a policy, we can set up a foundation for lifelong physical fitness and preventive healthcare. Moreover, by fostering an environment that supports and encourages physical activity, we can empower individuals to take an active role in their own well-being.

The message of healthy ageing must resonate across all segments of society, from the youngest to the oldest. It is a call to action for individuals, communities, and policymakers alike. By prioritizing healthy ageing as a collective responsibility, we can create a future where Nigerians of all ages can thrive, contributing to the nation’s socioeconomic development and prosperity through improved health, productivity, and reduced healthcare costs.

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