It is no scoop that our Western societies are ageing, and that, each year, the phenomenon makes us further question our ability to take care of the elderly and keep them integrated in society.
Today in France, almost half a million of the people over 65 who live in their own homes and 50% of all people living in residential homes suffer from malnutrition. One million people are in a situation of dependency. In terms of both values (our collective solidarity) and public health, the fact that we are growing older and older is a challenge that will ultimately shape our common future.
Are we to become a society where the “oldies” are extremely numerous but kept apart from society and treated like burdens, or will we be able to come up with a healthier collective future designed for the older people we will all one day become? The question is a matter of public policy: the European Union has even made 2012 the “European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations” to mark its importance. But the ageing rate – until 2030, the over-60s population will keep growing by two million a year in Europe, says Eurostat – calls for rapid action, and the simultaneous development of private initiatives.
Setting new rules for “ageing well”
The project “Bien Vieillir” (Ageing Well) is designed to address this issue: it brings together a local, non-profit organisation (Siel Bleu, an association dedicated to guaranteeing more physical independence for the elderly), a social business fund (the Danone Ecosystem Fund) and a brand (Nutricia, the Danone medical nutrition brand). The concept: to create a new service combining physical activity with nutritional education. The aim: to improve quality of life for the elderly by helping them maintain their autonomy, and thus postpone the onset of dependency. The means: co-creation, co-creation, co-creation.
The roots of the project go back to 1997, when Siel Bleu was created in Strasbourg by Jean-Daniel Muller and Jean-Michel Ricard, who both wanted to tackle the problem of dependency and consolidate intergenerational social interactions through physical activity. Their work relies on a technique called APA (Adapted Physical Activity), which develops low-cost sports programmes adapted to the elderly, the handicapped and the chronically ill. Siel Bleu now works with 270 employees and more than 2,000 care institutions, and helps nearly 60,000 people. In parallel, Danone developed a fund dedicated to strengthening its ecosystem through social business – the Danone Ecosystem Fund – and endeavoured to raise awareness of the issue of malnutrition and its consequences with its brand Nutricia. The meeting of the three parties led to the creation of “Bien Vieillir”:
Coming together to create a joint project was a natural step,
says Michel Albrecht, General Manager of the “Bien Vieillir” Partnerships at Nutricia in an Ecosystem newsletter on the subject. With financial help from the Ecosystem Fund, they have drawn up a programme that trains sports coaches to understand nutritional issues better, for it is a fact that “eating well” is closely linked with “moving well” and being active. “Through the activity sessions, where people talk to each other a great deal, we can recommend good dietary habits and identify people in difficulty so that we can advise them to discuss it with their doctor,” says Jean-Michel Ricard, co-General Manager of Siel Bleu in the Ecosystem newsletter. In return, Siel Bleu teams provide their experience and competences to Nutricia, to help the company see how they can improve their products to better meet the needs of the elderly. The project is thus a perfect example of co-creation, as emphasised by Jean-Christophe Laugée of the Danone Ecosystem Fund: this approach, common to all the projects supported by the Fund, helps a non-profit organisation to broaden its activities, and Danone to strengthen its business in the light of its dual project. Together, Siel Bleu and Nutricia are thus setting down the rules for “ageing well”, giving older people the chance to remain independent for longer. And, we hope, paving the way for closer cooperation between profit and non-profit organisations, to promote thinking on a subject crucial to the future of our societies.
(Photo from http://curie.fr)