HA NOI — Hundreds of elderly people in northern Thai Binh Province's Tien Hai District have actively contributed to improving public health and curbing the use of alcohol and cigarettes.
|The elderly practise Tai Chi Chuan as part of a healthy exercise regimen. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Duc
Their efforts form part of a programme, launched by the Viet Nam Public Health Association and Atlantic Philanthropies in May 2010, by which 110 locals from Tien Hai Town and Phuong Cong Commune were taught how to stay healthy. They subsequently expanded their new knowledge amongst other members of the community.
Active involvement in such social activities not only helped them stay healthy, but also improved their role in the community, said Viet Nam Public Health Association Vice President Le Vu Anh.
Anh said that seeing as Viet Nam lacked sufficient health staff, the elderly could play a vital role in health communication.
Prestige, enthusiasm, free time and ability to persuade made their voice strong within communities, he added.
Thanks to advice on diets and exercise alongside application of the WHO's Active Ageing Initiative [a process of optimising opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age], the elderly were instructed on how to pay more attention to their bodies to receive timely healthcare.
Ngo Tuan Nha, 72, from Phuong Cong Commune, said he had found joining the programme useful.
"At gatherings, health experts from the association and Ha Noi School of Public Health teach us about healthy lifestyles and disease prevention," he explained.
The commune also set up a public health branch and public health members with access to the Elderly Association to popularise understanding among about 30 households in the neighbourhood.
Nha said that during talks amongst neighbours, the elderly raised awareness on the harm of drinking and smoking.
"I felt healthier and happier in being useful to others," he said, adding that joining such social activities was much more interesting than staying at home and watching TV.
So far, out of 500 male smokers in the two communes, over 100 reportedly quit, while nearly 130 others reduced their daily intake.
With the elderly accounting for 10.1 per cent of Viet Nam's total population, the country has faced burdens including increased Government and household spendings as well as upped demand for healthcare and social welfare, Anh said.
"Viet Nam has less than 20 years to make the transition from a golden to an ageing population," he added, "It needs drastic measures to improve quality of life amongst the elderly."
Nguyen Thi Lien, a Viet Nam Elderly Association representative, said that life quality improvement covered physical health, mental health, access to services and participation in community activities.
Thus, initiatives designated for the elderly must be diversified, she said, urging focus on the poor and lonely. — VNS