Talking about the Human Rights of Older Persons

작성자 admin 시간 2022-12-15 10:19:54
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dr arne henning eide에 대한 이미지 결과


The tenth meeting under the theme of ‘Talking about the Human Rights of Older Persons’ took place online on November 23, 2022 with Dr Arne Henning Eide. Dr Eide is Chief Scientist of Health Research at SINTEF based in Norway. He is also a Professor at the Department of Social Work, Norwegian University of Science and Technology. He has extensive experience in research on disability and poverty, assistive technology, community-based rehabilitation and studies on living conditions in more than 20 different low-income countries. Dr Eide has collaborated with World Health Organisation (WHO), UN, UNICEF and other international organisations over many years and was the lead researcher for the implementation of the Rapid Assistive Technology Assessment in 35 countries in collaboration with WHO.   


During the meeting, Dr Eide talked about the history and research fields of  SINTEF as well as major research projects relating to older people that he has taken part in. He shared his thoughts and insights earned from research he has been involved in, particularly the specific characteristics of ageing in low- and middle-income countries and how digital technology can be utilized to support healthy ageing. He then offered his views on the current global initiative towards adopting an International Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons.


1. SINTEF and its Research Areas

SINTEF is an independent research institution based in Norway. It is among the top five largest research institutions in Europe, employing about 2,000 researchers. It was established more than 60 years ago in the context of rebuilding Europe with US Marshall aid after the Second World War. It is a non-profit organization and operates as a foundation. While receiving a basic grant from the government as most research institutions in Europe, it largely operates with contract-based funding from various parties. Funders include corporations in the R & D market, public institutions particularly for research on health, the EU (Research Council), and international organizations like WHO, UNICEF and World Bank. SINTEF is a reputable and well-established research institute in the fields of technology and health. SINTEF specializes in technology related to construction, industry, energy, the oceans digitalization, health and buildings. It is also closely connected to the oil industry, the major economic sector of Norway. There are several sub-institutes under SINTEF and one of them is SINTEF Digital that specializes in digital technology, within which the Department of Health Research sits and which Dr Eide is affiliated with. The Health Research Department is relatively small within SINTEF, having 60 members, but benefits from carrying out interesting cross-disciplinary research that intersects technologies, health and sciences. Among several groups within the Health Research Department, Dr Eide belongs to the Global Health Group and has been involved in researches focusing on vulnerable populations in low- and middle-income countries, especially people with disabilities. He has taken part in researches on different countries across the world, primarily in Southern and Central Africa, in the Middle East and some countries in Asia such as Nepal, Indonesia and Vietnam.


Dr Eide has been working for SINTEF for 25 years. His main research activities have been collecting data through large national representative studies in 11 different countries on the living conditions of people with disabilities, compared with those without. The core expertise of the Global Health Group is to organize, carry out, analyze, publish and utilize these data, in close collaboration with civil society organizations. There is much room for further research on older populations on the basis of this available data set. In fact, SINTEF owns a large pool of household surveys collected over the years. While SINTEF focuses on the countries that Norway has close relationship with, such as African countries that Norwegian development aid prioritizes, other countries, including Korea, that are interested in global ageing, can adopt them to their particular needs or purposes. If there is an agreement between the participating institutions on how and for what purpose these data are to be used, the data can be potentially shared and many interesting collaborative research projects based on these data can be conducted.


2. Research on Older People in Norway and its Implications  

Among numerous research projects Dr Eide has been involved in, he mentioned two major projects that directly touches on older people. One of these projects was about elder abuse and it was one of the largest research projects on the topic that had ever been conducted in the world. Funded by the Research Council of Norway, it conducted interviews of staff members at 100 nursing homes in Norway, and came to collect highly reliable data on the extent and nature of elder abuse in nursing homes. This research in and of itself is a great achievement and research outcomes have been and will continue to be published. It also initiated many interesting reactions among researchers and politicians. He was invited to a meeting with a minister who wanted to change immediately some of the regulations concerning reporting of patient safety issues from nursing homes. This is a good example of research having a direct political impact and initiating political debate and change.

The research findings came as a shock to many people as many were not aware of elder abuse as a serious issue. In reality, elder abuse is more prevalent than one thinks, particularly under the conditions of a lack of physical and human resources. They also underlined that one has to be careful about the definition of elder abuse, to the extent that it covers a wide range of things. In fact, physical and sexual abuse is less prevalent than psychological verbal abuse or neglect. Furthermore, the research project has raised a question mark about Norway’s welfare system, which is often praised and even considered by many a model case. The research highlighted that Norway, where elder care is highly institutionalized, is also encountering serious problems including elder abuse. On the other hand, it is not clear if elder abuse is worse in institutions than at people’s homes. In fact, it is quite likely that elder abuse in the private sphere is extensive. This is an issue that needs to be addressed more seriously.

Another major project that Dr Eide was involved in in relation to older people was about how home-based elder care services can contribute to older people’s engagement in daily lives. This project, too, was conducted concerning the case of Norway for a period of four years and funded by the Research Council of Norway. It is well known that an active social life can have a positive health impact both physically and psychologically. While home-based care is seen as an alternative to institutionalized care, it has turned out that many people in home-based care stay inactive and suffer from loneliness, and very often their sole contact is with home-visit nurses. This shows that home-based elder care can also create problems of passivity and loneliness. This research also underlined the importance of building a good working relation between care recipients, family members and care personnel, to the extent that family members play important roles and the conflicts and different perspectives between them should not be allowed to affect the quality of elderly care adversely. 


Moreover, this research also highlighted that home-based care should do more than providing support for practical matters such as doing shopping and cleaning. Though this is important, people receiving home-based care want more: they want to have more engagement with social activities and networks. This highlights that the home-based care system should be rethought and reorganized in a way that care recipients expand their participation. Fortunately, gradual change in this direction is already visible. The principles that guide home-based care should be participation and inclusion.


3. Ageing and Technology in Developing Countries
In low- and middle-income countries, home-based elder care and institutionalized care are marginal: care for older persons is typically the business of the family. The strong influence of the family’s perspective in elder care contrasts sharply with developed countries like Norway, where there is little room for family intervention as institutions and the welfare-state are in charge, losing the close human contacts and responsibilities that family members have for each other. Furthermore, older people in the developing countries tend to play their roles in the community much longer. While the developed countries look at home-based elder care as an alternative to institutionalized care, the developing countries have not started the process of institutionalization. The predominant form of elder care in the developing countries is, precisely speaking, family care, rather than home-based care, where professional care systems are lacking or absent.

In spite of some positive aspects of the family’s strong involvement in elder care and the fact that looking after family members in itself has virtuous elements, there are also flaws. Family care can create serious problems such as abuse and neglect, caused by a lack of knowledge or awareness. Moreover, family care often imposes a great burden on working-age family members. These problems are closely connected to poverty: poverty is the single most serious problem in the developing countries and is a burden that often spills over in various social problems. It is important to recognize that poverty has a huge impact on how people live and relate to each other. It makes people fight for survival and often has the effect of excluding and marginalizing the vulnerable; for instance, older persons and people with disabilities are not at the front of a queue for food distribution.


What this suggests is that international development projects that address global ageing and the human rights of older persons cannot but address the issue of poverty simultaneously. Furthermore, there should be a system in place that provides families in the poorer regions with access to education to enhance their awareness of human rights. Ageing is already advancing rapidly in the developing world. Developing countries would neither be able to, nor wish to, copy the models of the developed countries. In addition, in many countries, institutionalization is culturally unacceptable. In this context, a new combination of individualism and collectivism should be found and built.

4. Digital Technology in the Developing Countries

Dr Eide shared his view on how technology can enhance the life of older persons in low- and middle-income countries on the basis of his experience. He was involved in WHO-funded research on access to assistive technology among the world’s older persons and disabled in low- and middle-income countries as a part of the WHO’s initiative Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology (GATE). Digital technology can have a greater impact than one thinks, even in poor countries. A global challenge is to ensure that people have access to (relatively simple) assistive technology. Digital technology can save time and enhance efficiency in the healthcare sector, and move healthcare closer to people. As long as countries are receptive to adopting digital technology and understand its benefits, and if there is funding to support it, significant change can happen. For instance, highly competent healthcare exists in most countries, but very often only in urban areas. Dr Eide was involved in a project in Malawi that monitored patients, where health workers were trained to connect patients in the rural areas to specialists in the capital using mobile phones. In fact, such small but promising projects and trials are being implemented in many places. This shows that digital technology can be utilized for the benefit of many people in the context of low- and middle-income countries.


5. A Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons and Future Collaboration

Dr Eide has been following the preparatory work as well as the implementation of the Convention on the People with Disabilities. From the process he learnt that while many discussions and events happen at the international top level, its actual impact on the ground takes much longer. However, the work on the Convention brings many parties together and makes things move forward collectively and consensually. It can take years to arrive at a Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons, but the preparatory phase is important, bringing all stakeholders on board. A global dialogue on the content and design of the Convention is highly necessary, particularly given the immense diversity in cultures and politics among different countries. Careful finetuning of the content is therefore very much needed.

Finally, Dr Eide expressed his interest in cooperating with the ASEM Global Ageing Center (AGAC), sharing his research findings and knowledge of many experts and researchers who could be approached for collaboration.



Hae-Yung Song