How can the VITALITY! Programme of the Medical Delta improve the quality of life of older people?

The proportion of individuals aged 55+ in the Dutch population is growing due to the lower birth rate and increased longevity. Additionally, the baby-boom generation is reaching pensionable age. This change in the population build-up creates opportunities, challenges and issues. Medical Delta, a collaboration between universities, local government and industries, intends to apply its expertise, insights and capabilities to support society and individuals to deliver innovative solutions for the ageing population. These activities are the subject of the VITALITY! Programme.

We often think about ageing from the perspective of the middle-aged population. Health is defined on the basis of objective disease criteria. As a result, healthy ageing is not credible for the majority of older people who already suffer morbidity. At the age of 85, 90% of the people have physical or mental problems. However, the good news is that half of these elderly regard their well-being as optimal. This contradiction arises because elderly themselves have gradually adjusted their ambitions, values and expectations.

The vision that Leyden Academy developed for the Medical Delta therefore departs from the reality of elderly themselves. This led to the Vitality model, which aims to appreciate the opinions and aspirations in different age groups. In this model, health interacts with vitality, which is defined as ‘the ability of a person to set ambitions appropriate for one’s life situation and being able to realize these goals’. This interpretation of vitality varies greatly between individuals and changes over the course of life. The model proves to be a valuable addition to the one-sided emphasis on physical functioning or objective health.

The VITALITY! Programme intends to support the older generation by encouraging individuals to set and achieve realistic ambitions based on their own abilities and self-management. The joint forces of the Medical Delta will be deployed to develop sustainable solutions that will take us a significant step further in the quest for vitality into old age.

Drs. Frank Schalkwijk
Scientific officer VITALITY!

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